Florida Keys

Key West elects the first openly lesbian mayor in Florida history

Key West voters chose Teri Johnston as their next mayor.
Key West voters chose Teri Johnston as their next mayor.

Teri Johnston is the new mayor of Key West, the first open lesbian to be elected as a city mayor of a major Florida city.

The former city commissioner defeated Margaret Romero Tuesday by taking 66 percent of the vote.

“We said from the very start we were going to run an issue-oriented campaign,” Johnston said Tuesday night, as both candidates complimented each other on campaigns well run.

Johnston received 6,635 votes to Romero’s 3,398 votes.

“Tonight Teri Johnston made history when voters elected her mayor of Key West,” Stratton Pollitzer, chair of Equality Florida Action PAC, told WLRN. “Teri is the first out lesbian candidate to be elected mayor of a Florida city, and her victory continues a proud Key West tradition of leading on LGBTQ equality. Teri has been an outstanding advocate of equality during her time on the Key West Commission and we are thrilled to now call her mayor.”

In Key West, mayors serve two-year terms and earn an annual salary of $22,499. The swearing-in ceremony is set for Nov. 19.

Romero, a native Key Wester who now has run four times for mayor, served a four-year term as a city commissioner before quitting to run for mayor this year.

The campaign spending was widely disparate. Johnston spent $116,000 on her campaign while Romero spent about $16,000.

Johnston, a contractor who is originally from Iowa, is the first new mayor since 2009, when Craig Cates was first elected. Cates was term-limited.

Romero said she will stay active in politics, if not as an elected official.

“She’ll now be the mayor and I’m a civilian,” Romero said Tuesday night. “I’m still willing to help make this a better town. We’re still going to work together.”

During the Aug. 28 primary, seven candidates were on the ballot for mayor. Johnston won 49 percent of the vote, compared with Romero’s 21 percent. To win outright in a primary election, the winner must take 50 percent of the vote plus one vote.

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Tuesday’s mayoral election was also historic in that Johnston is the first woman to serve as Key West mayor since Sheila Mullins in the late 1990s. She is only the second woman mayor in the city’s history, Johnston said.

Countywide, there are 53,456 registered voters. Of those, 21,006 are Republicans and 17,402 are Democrats. Turnout for the Aug. 28 primary was 34 percent.

Utility Board

Robert Barrios, of Big Coppitt Key, defeated Beth Ramsay-Vickrey in the race for the Keys Energy Utility Board, seat D, winning 60 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Ramsay-Vickrey, of Big Pine Key, received 6,793 votes. Barrios won 10,096 votes.

“I’m not going to create too many waves. I want to get my feet wet and see where we’re at,” Barrios said Tuesday. “I want to get the hurricane money back from FEMA and I think that’s going to be our number one goal.”

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A native of Key West, Barrios has lived on Big Coppitt since 1995. He is the practice manager at a local accounting firm but previously worked for Keys Energy, from 1988 to 2016, when he retired. He worked as a meter reader, in customer service, in engineering and finished his last four years as a safety and risk officer.

Each candidate spent about $12,000 each during the campaign.


Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Board

Phil Goodman, the Republican incumbent on the Mosquito Control Board, kept his seat Tuesday. Goodman collected 54 percent of the vote Tuesday night. His Democratic challenger, Ralph DePalma, of Key West, received 15,921 votes to Goodman’s 18,806.

“It’s been a long campaign and I think we’re all ready to get back to mosquito control,” Goodman said. “Last election, I had two opponents and I had a little over 50 percent of the vote. Partisan [politics] played a big part in this, which is unfortunate. It’s unfortunate it’s that way but that’s the way it is.”


Goodman has served on the board since 2011 and is the chairman. He’s been elected chairman consecutively for the past three years. A native of North Carolina, Goodman has lived in Monroe County since 1999. He spent some $14,000 on his campaign. DePalma spent just over $9,000.

This will be Goodman’s last term, he said. “Three terms is it for me,” he said.


WLRN reporter Nancy Klingener contributed to this story.