Out50: Teri Johnston

Teri Johnston

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston celebrated alongside Dar, her partner and wife of 35 years and mother of their two daughters at this year’s Pride festivities. 

“We have always attended Key West Pride with our entire family,” said Johnston, who set a record in November 2018 when she became the first out lesbian to be elected mayor of Key West. 

Hailing from Conrad, Iowa — which had "one stop light, no crime and an entire community to raise you properly” — Johnston arrived 20 years ago in what then was a gay destination. 

“Dar and I were drawn to Key West by the ‘feel.’ Nowhere had we experienced the sense of community, inclusiveness, caring and activism that we felt when we crossed the Cow Key Bridge into Key West. You could share a glass of wine with a billionaire and a homeless local and have the most engaging, intellectual conversation that you have had for years,” recalled Johnston, who, with her wife, owns a small design/build company. 

Two decades after her arrival, Johnston says Key West has grown into an “all welcome” destination. Each year, 4 million visitors to this environmentally sensitive island check out attractions ranging from the classic to the contemporary, including the rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Petronia and Duval Streets. 

“Actually, it was Hurricane Wilma that projected me into politics,” said Johnston, who served two terms as a city commissioner before she was elected mayor, the second woman to hold this office in Key West. 

Then, in 2017, Hurricane Irma roared through. “There is no community that you could ever be a part of, however, that meets these weather events with more resolve and a fierce protection of our neighbors and neighborhoods. We are up and moving with lightning speed.”

Johnston is quick to point out, “We make sure that inclusivity is ingrained in all of our legislation, but more importantly, we live it every day.”

“Everyone contributes and supports the entire community,” proclaimed the mayor.

— James Watson 



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