Local Obituaries

He ran Key West for 11 years. Former City Manager Julio Avael dies.

Julio Avael
Julio Avael City of Key West

Julio Avael Jr., who as Key West’s city manager served with four mayors from 1996 until 2007, died on Saturday. He was 75.

“Julio was a strong and respected leader in our community,” the city posted on its Facebook page.

His lifelong friend and former City Commissioner Harry Bethel said Avael had been in hospice recently but didn’t want to comment on medical details. Avael had moved to Winter Haven, Bethel said.

Bethel said Avael was Key West’s longest-serving city manager.

Avael was married 44 years to RaiEtte Avael, a longtime employee of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The manager weathered many local storms, including some real ones such as Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005. He also was at the forefront of Key West’s live chicken crisis for which the city hired someone to lower the population by planting traps in 2004.

Avael was at the helm during a difficult period when Key West Police Department officers were being accused of abusing citizens — allegations that received national attention.

He was also forced to grapple with the city’s homeless problem, at a time in 2003 when people had pitched tents near the airport.

Bethel remembered Avael as a dedicated public servant.

“Julio did not procrastinate when you asked him to do something. It got done and he advised you when it was completed,” Bethel said. “We acquired the Truman Waterfront Park during his tenure.”

Avael started a management consulting firm and had a master’s degree in public administration from Nova Southeastern University. He attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and studied at Florida State University.

Avael was an accomplished drummer who sat in with Jimmy Buffett and James Brown, and in his later years he learned to paint, often choosing Key West sights — including roosters — as his subject.

In February 2004, then-U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen recognized Avael in Washington. Area officials designated February 21, 2004, as Julio Avael Day.

“Julio has demonstrated a profound commitment to our community,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “He has been especially instrumental in enhancing the government through implementation of historic preservation projects, neighborhood and park revitalization and other citywide infrastructure improvement.”

She added, “Julio’s hard work has enabled him to become not only a dynamic city manager, but also an energetic member of this community.”

Avael is survived by two sons, Darren and Julio, a brother Adolfo, of Hardy, Virginia, and sisters Nellie Vargas, of Key West, and Linda Beiro, of Zephyrhills, Florida.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Jan. 20, at the Clayland Baptist Church in Live Oak. A memorial celebration will be held at a later date in February in Key West.

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.