How Government Works in Monroe County

Map of Monroe County Municipal Boundaries

Monroe County has five municipalities, Key West, Marathon, Key Colony Beach, Layton, and Islamorada. The remaining areas are Unincorporated Monroe County. The County and municipalities each have its own governing body.

Unincorporated Monroe County consists of the areas outside the five municipalities lines. Monroe County is broken into five districts. Five commissioners are elected countywide and must reside in the district they represent. The districts are broken down by residential population based on the 10-year census, which will be redrawn in 2020.

THE DISTRICT BREAKDOWN:

  • District 1: East part of Key West, Stock Island, Key Haven
  • District 2: Boca Chica through 7 Mile Bridge, including the north side of US 1 to 63rd Court in Marathon
  • District 3: West part of Key West
  • District 4: Marathon, not including District 2, through Plantation Key with a small west end of Tavernier
  • District 5: Tavernier through Ocean Reef

MUNICIPALITIES

The municipalities have their own elected councils and government procedures. The five municipalities in Monroe County are Key West, Marathon, Key Colony Beach, Layton, and Islamorada. Each has its own set of elected councilmembers, mayor, and administrators. The municipalities government oversee its own municipal budgets.

CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES

The County has five elected Constitutional Officers: Clerk of the Court, Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, and Supervisor of Elections.

BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) governs unincorporated Monroe County and the primary County government functions. The BOCC consists of five members elected Countywide for staggering terms of four years in the general election in even years. Should there be no opposition from an opposing party, an election is determined in the primary. Candidates must be registered voters and reside in the district they will represent. The districts are determined based on population every 10 years after each U.S. Census.

The County Administrator, County Attorney, Land Authority, and Tourist Development Council answer directly to the BOCC. The District 16 Medical Examiner is an independent district, which has jurisdiction in Monroe County.

The BOCC approves Monroe County's budget, which includes the budgets for the Constitutional Offices. 

Duties of the Board of County Commissioners:

  • Review and pass the County budget and levy taxes.
  • Make appropriations for the operation of the County as identified in the budget.
  • Authorize bonds for capital improvements.
  • Manage County properties through the County Administrator.
  • Confirm division and department heads appointed by the County Administrator
  • Appoint special boards and committees.
  • Establish policy which, through the County Administrator, filters down to department heads and others who carry it out.
  • Present ordinances to the public for hearings and then vote whether or not to adopt them for inclusion in the County Code.

MONROE COUNTY MAYOR

Monroe County Mayor is the title given the chairperson of the BOCC. The position is ceremonial, and the mayor holds the same authority as the rest of the commissioners. At the first BOCC meeting after the general election (and again at any subsequent meeting when desired) one of the commissioners is chosen by a majority vote by the other commissioners to serve as mayor. A mayor pro tem is also designated at the same meeting. The mayor pro tem is like a vice-chair that will proceed as mayor in the event the mayor is unavailable. 

The mayor presides over BOCC meetings and serves as the representative of the County on ceremonial occasions. At election time, the chairperson serves on the Canvassing Board. The chairperson is also responsible for signing documents and cosigning, with the County Clerk, all County checks.

THE COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

Monroe County government adopted a commission-administrator system to carry out the functions of the County. The elected commissioners enact local ordinances and administer them through their appointed county administrator. The commission approves budgets and oversees spending.

In a commission-administrator government, the elected commissioners appoint a separate professional administrator who carries out policies, hires and fires employees, and prepares a budget for the commission's approval. In Monroe County, the administrator oversees the 22 departments that help Monroe County run smoothly.

SEPARATELY ELECTED GOVERNING BOARDS IN MONROE COUNTY 

Florida Keys Mosquito Control: Five board members elected countywide but represent their respective districts.

DID YOU KNOW: There are 46 species of mosquitoes that call Monroe County home.

Monroe County School Board: Five board members elected countywide who represent their respective districts and are charged with the mission of giving Florida Keys students the tools they need to become responsible, contributing adults.

Keys Energy Services: The five-seat elected governing board for the Lower Keys electric company represents the 7 Mile Bridge to Key West. In 2020, the board will consist of two positions in the Lower Keys and three in Key West proper.

Florida Keys Electric Cooperative: The nine-person elected electric company board represents four districts in the Middle and Upper Keys that range from the 7-Mile Bridge to Ocean Reef and through the County line on the 18-Mile Stretch.

Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority: Countywide representation with a five-person board appointed by Florida’s governor.

MONROE COUNTY STATE AND FEDERAL PARTNERS

For the State:

Florida Department of Health in Monroe County: The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County is responsible for helping to keep the residents in the Florida Keys healthy. From environmental health to preventative planning for those who are pregnant to those looking for elderly care, and everyone in between. The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County is also a partner for special needs care during evacuations events, and in the past has helped Monroe County with issues like screwworm and mosquito-related incidents.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC): FWC has many entities in the Keys, including law enforcement, licenses and permitting, conservation, and research. On the law enforcement side, the FWC officers overlap with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on the water and near coastal communities. FWC officers have access to shallow water and respond as backup or primary on water-related issues and public safety. With Hurricane Irma, the agency brought in supplemental officers and equipment to support Emergency Management.

On the research side of FWC, the agency keeps track of economically stimulating fisheries like lobster and stone crab, which is important not only for the County but also for the State. It also helps create awareness about invasive species, like lionfish, and is the State agency tasked with testing antibiotic for the recent coral disease outbreak.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): The DEP is the State’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship, divided into three areas: land and recreation, regulatory, and ecosystem restoration. In Monroe County, DEP has been an integral agency for the County’s canal restoration, stormwater, and sustainability projects.  

Federally, the County also works with several agencies:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Weather Service (NWS): For all things wind, water, and weather-related, the County entrusts the experts at NOAA and NWS for updated forecasts and ongoing weather issues. Daily forecasts can be found on the NWS website and During a hurricane event, like Hurricane Irma in 2017, NOAA also provides satellite imagery to help evacuees survey damage from an aerial view. NOAA is also responsible for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects 2,900 nautical miles of Florida Keys coastal and ocean waters. For decades, both have helped Florida Keys fishermen and boaters make informed decisions.

United States Coast Guard: The United States Coast Guard has two stations, one in Islamorada and one in Marathon, and a sector in Key West. Sector Key West has a 55,000 square mile responsibility, including Cuba and the Bahamas. The Coast Guard protects the maritime border, environment, and marine commerce. They conduct search and rescue and law enforcement operations, and in the event of a disaster, Coast Guard works with Monroe County’s Emergency Management team.

United States Navy: Monroe County and Naval Air Station Key West have a long history of cooperation and mutual partnership. This collaboration has contributed economic, public safety, and environmental benefits for the community at large, and has also enhanced operational and readiness requirements for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, National Guard units, federal agencies, and allied forces supported by Naval Air Station Key West.

United States Customs and Border Protection: In the event of an emergency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents become a part of Monroe County’s Emergency Management team. The agency is also responsible for border security and detaining illegal immigrants, preventing human trafficking, and checking people in and out at the Key West Port of Entry. 

BOCC MEETINGS

Meetings are held once a month on a rotating basis at Murray Nelson Government Center in the Upper Keys, the Marathon Government Center and the Commission Chambers of the Harvey Government Center at Historic Truman School in Key West. When there are conflicting schedules, meetings are held at other locations. The minutes of the Board of Commissioners' meetings are available to the public through the Clerk of the Court's office and on the County website.

Public Welcome

The public is always welcome to attend meetings of the Board, and any citizen wishing to speak on an agenda item may, by registering his request with the Clerk before the item is called, voice an opinion when the item comes up for discussion. In addition to routine County business, the Board of Commissioners holds public hearings on many subjects, including proposed ordinances, the County Budget, capital projects (public buildings and major improvements) and their acquisition, construction and equipping, as well as on appeals to decisions of the Planning Commission and for special taxing districts for fire and ambulance service.