Florida Keys

Key West’s new mayor calls for cleanliness, and unity, as she takes the oath

Johnston takes oath of office in Key West to become mayor

Teri Johnston, a two-term city commissioner, took the oath of office Nov. 19, 2018 as part of a ceremony swearing her in as mayor of Key West. She is the second woman to hold the office in Key West history.
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Teri Johnston, a two-term city commissioner, took the oath of office Nov. 19, 2018 as part of a ceremony swearing her in as mayor of Key West. She is the second woman to hold the office in Key West history.

Promising to work with all residents, city staff and elected leaders, Teri Johnston took the oath of office Monday in a swearing-in ceremony that gave her a new title: Key West mayor.

“I’m calling upon you to be an active participant in our future,” Johnston said in her inaugural address at City Hall. “I’m calling upon the City Commission to find the political will to make the difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes unpopular decisions that are going to be required to move this community forward to a brighter future for us all.”

She also asked everyone who lives in and visits Key West to pitch in to make the city cleaner.

“Clean your property to the road, bring your garbage cans in when you’re supposed to, pull your own weight, slow down in our residential areas, support our local teams and attend our school events,” she said.

About 175 people turned out to wish Johnston, 67, a former two-term city commissioner, well in her new role. The mayor, who serves for two years, runs the City Commission meetings and attends city and social events. The pay is $22,500.

Key West may market itself as paradise but the small city has big city problems, including a dire shortage of workforce housing, traffic congestion and effects of climate change that include street flooding.

“Some of the brightest, most successful creative people call Key West home,” Johnston said. “If we cannot collectively solve our issues with that gene pool, I’m not sure where you can.”

Johnston took note that she is only the second woman to serve as Key West mayor in 190 years. She also is among the first openly lesbian mayors in Florida.

“Thirteen days ago we broke the mold,” Johnston said. “We broke the mold for hundreds of women across the United States who put themselves out there. We were all elected to bring change, unification, leadership, equal representation and hope.”

Johnston was elected Nov. 6 in a runoff against former city commissioner Margaret Romero. Johnston took 66 percent of the vote. Romero attended Monday’s ceremony as did outgoing Mayor Craig Cates, who held the job since 2009.

Cates said the ceremony was awesome. “She’s bringing the community together after the election,” he said.

“I am going to spend every second of the next two years proving to you that you made the right choice,” Johnston told the crowd.

Johnston’s first meeting as mayor is Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Although he was overshadowed by Johnston’s inauguration, Robert Barrios of Big Coppitt Key was also sworn in as a member of the Keys Energy Utility Board. He won a newly created seat in a runoff Nov. 6 and is the first utility board member to live outside Key West city limits. Previously only residents of Key West could run.

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Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.


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