Thanks to the impetus of two Key West City Ambassadors, City Hall now has a Flag Retirement Box!
Robert Irvine and Mike deBettencourt worked with Mayor Teri Johnston, Assistant City Manager Todd Stoughton and Community Services Foreman Richard Sarver to make this important service a reality.
Irvine got the ball rolling after being involved with a similar project in New Jersey.
The new box is outside of the customer service side of City Hall. It was unveiled last week, and Irvine and the Mayor deposited the first retired flags.
The retired flags will be delivered to American Legion Post 28 located on Stock Island next to the Key West Golf Club and they will burn the flags. Post 28 currently conducts flag burning ceremonies. In fact, the VFW Post 3911 on North Roosevelt Blvd. delivers their retired flags to the American Legion Post 28 for burning.
Mayor Teri Johnston and the Key West City Commission have proclaimed January Key to Be the Change Mentoring Month. But for the many mentors in the community, every month is mentoring month.
First established in 2014, Keys to Be the Change provides programs, education, awareness and opportunities that empower children, youth and adults to improve health, wellness and skills for success in school and in life. Mentors play a vital role by providing crucial emotional and social support to our children and youth as they grow and develop into our next generation of future citizens and leaders.
The program collaborates with the City of Key West, the Key West Police Department, JIATFS (Joint Interagency Task Force South which includes personnel from the US Coast Guard, Army, Airforce and Marines) as well as numerous community members.
“The organization recognizes that mentoring results in less truancy,” reads the proclamation, “higher rates of graduation, fosters better attitudes regarding law enforcement and encourages bonding with school as well as community.”
“Our kids are so lucky,” said Keys to Be the Change Executive Director Heidi Golightly, “that we have these people in our back yard. They have jumped in to help our high risk youth.”
She noted the youth leaders of the organization, noting that they were a testament to the success of Key to Be the Change.
Key West Mayor Teri Johnston and the City Commission proclaimed July 14th as Flora Barroso Rueda Day in honor of Rueda’s 102nd birthday.
City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley did the honors of presenting the proclamation to Mrs. Rueda, as she is his godmother.
“At 65 she took on a new career of playing the piano,” said Weekley. She played for the senior citizens at Bayshore Manor and in the convalescent center. After taking a break during the Covid pandemic, she now plans to start playing for the residents of Poinciana Gardens.
Born in 1920, she grew up on Bahama Street, where she learned to play the piano -- and to play cards -- at a very early age. She graduated from the Convent of Mary Immaculate High School in 1938.
As a lifelong member of The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, Flora sang in the choir for more than 50 years alongside her sister Norma.
Flora met and married Evelio “Skippy” Rueda and, over 70 years of marriage, they raised a strong family that now includes three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Rueda has been a member of the Catholic Daughters, Court #634, and served in every office of the organization over a span of 52 years. She served as State Regent and Treasurer of the Florida Council of Catholic Daughters.
Rueda’s beautiful still life paintings grace the homes of many friends and family.
Rueda accepted the honor surrounded by family. She recalled fondly her childhood in Key West and the importance that music has played in her life.
Mayor Teri Johnston represented Key West at the 90th annual United States Conference of Mayors from June 3rd to the 6th. The mayor joined 1,400 mayors from around the country to tackle common challenges such as housing, equity, mental health, economic growth, gun violence, climate change, women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.
Mayor Johnston was honored to participate on two panels during the conference to share her experience in Key West with other mayors.
“This is one of those unique, refreshing conferences where there is no political divide, just mayors rolling up their sleeves to share ideas for solutions to common community problems.”
Sunday marked the final day in a 27-year career for Key West Police Capt. JR Torres.
At last week’s City Commission meeting, Chief Sean Brandenburg, City Manager Patti McLauchlin and the entire City Commission gave thanks to Capt. Torres for his dedicated years of service, noting that, prior to his tenure with the police he served the community as a paramedic for ten years. In total, Capt. Torres has served the Key West community for 37 years.
Chief Brandenburg, in recognition of his outstanding service to the community, bestowed the honorary rank of Deputy Chief.
During his nearly three decades with the police, Capt. Torres has earned many honors, including the Medal of Valor, the Life Saving Award, and several Chief’s Commendations.
He served as a narcotics detective, K9 handler and patrol officer. Ten years ago, he was promoted to Captain and served as Patrol Captain until his retirement.
“This has been the most rewarding and honorable thing I’ve done in my life,” said Capt. Torres. “In my mind there’s nothing more rewarding that a person can do as a human being. That feeling you get when you put your head down at night knowing you have done right for others is priceless.”
Chief Brandenburg recapped Capt. Torres’s remarkable career and, in a long-standing joke around the station, noted that he was, indeed, the Chief’s favorite Captain.
“Congratulations, JR, on an amazing career,” he said.
At Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, City Manager Patti McLauchlin presented Capt. Torres with a plaque honoring his service.
“We’ve worked together for 27 years,” she said, “Through thick and thin. I’m very proud of the service you’ve given to the community.”
In the photo: Commissioners Gregory Davila, Jimmy Weekley and Mary Lou Hoover, Business Guild Executive Director Kevin Theriault, Guild President Chuck Licis-Masson, Mayor Teri Johnston, Guild Vice President Jacqueline Luhta, Guild employee Fritzie Estimond, Vice Mayor Sam Kaufman, and Commissioners Clayton Lopez and Billy Wardlow.
Mayor Teri Johnston and the City Commission helped kick off a week of celebration by proclaiming June 1st through the 5th as Key West Pride Week.
Since the late 1970s, the Key West Business Guild has been promoting Key West as a LGBTQ travel destination.
“Key West made history by electing the first openly gay Mayor,” reads the proclamation, “and the first openly lesbian mayor of the State of Florida. Key West presented the world with the Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag and has always been a leader of LGBTQ rights and protections for our nation.”
Key West Business Guild President Chuck Licis-Masson thanked the City for the newly replaced rainbow crosswalks on Duval Street. He also thanked the Key West Police Department for the Pride-wrapped police car, which was sponsored by the Business Guild.
“What’s important to focus on,” he said, “is that differences mean strength. We are empowered by our differences, not weakened.”
The city’s motto “One Human Family” reflects the community’s commitment that no matter what a person’s race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we all can stand together as one.
“Key West Pride 2022 will serve as a reminder to all of the ongoing struggle for social, political and personal equality for the LGBTQ community across our nation and throughout the world,” continues the proclamation.
Festivities through the week include a street fair, numerous parties as well as several church services. The celebration culminates in the Key West Pride Parade down Duval Street from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic on Sunday, June 5th beginning at 5 p.m.
Mayor Teri Johnston and the City Commission have proclaimed May as Haitian Heritage Month.
“Haitian Heritage Month salutes Haitian and Haitian-American contributions,” reads the proclamation, “which have immeasurably enriched the lives of the people of this city and the United States.”
Haitian Americans have made their mark as educators, authors, community leaders, activists, athletes, artists, musicians, and politicians, in our society and have contributed to the of this city. They are an important part of Key West’s culturally diverse community.
Pastor Jean of Key West Church of God of Prophecy thanked the commission for the recognition and reminded them that the Haitian community relies on their continued attention to affordable workforce housing.
Got a question or suggestion for the Mayor? Join Mayor Teri Johnston on Tuesday, May 17th at the Green Pineapple, 1130 Duval Street from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a conversation about our community.
Mayor Johnston looks forward to seeing you there!
Mayor Teri Johnston and the City Commission, during a recent commission meeting, proclaimed the week of May 16th through the 22nd as National Emergency Medical Services Week.
The official theme for the 2022 National Emergency Medical Services Week is EMS Strong: Beyond the Call.
“Emergency medical services provide vital lifesaving care to those in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” reads the proclamation, “dramatically improving the survival and recovery rate of those who experience sudden illness or injury.”
The designation is a way of reaching out and thanking all of those first responders who ensure that the community has the best and fastest medical emergency response possible each and every day.
Mayor Teri Johnston, the Key West City Commission, and the Old Island Restoration Foundation this week presented a commendation to Paul and Evalena Worthington for their dedication in preserving the Historic Key West Bight.
The couple has, for many years, operated the Schooner Wharf Bar. Paul recently passed away, and Evalina accepted the honor.
“The Worthingtons have inspired so many through their love of traditional classic boats,” reads the commendation. It notes that, over the years, the couple “never lost sight of the issues that mattered to the people within the local community.”
The “have worked diligently to ensure that the spirit of Key West remains true to its traditional culture; and every man, woman and child, family, pirate, shopkeeper, visitor, Conch, and resident is welcome at the Schooner Wharf Bar.”
“I am so honored,” said Evalina. “We will continue the tradition of keeping the preservation of the Bight and Schooner Wharf Bar. See you there for a drink… or two!”
In the photo: Commissioners Mary Lou Hoover (at the dais) and Gregory Davila, Mayor Teri Johnston, Evalina Worthington, Vice Mayor Sam Kaufman, and Commissioners Clayton Lopez and Billy Wardlow.
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