If the Virgin Islands has any hope of pulling itself out of its current morass of financial devastation, rampant corruption, an embarrassingly deficient infrastructure and a failing public education system, John de Jongh Jr. is the clear and necessary choice to be our next governor.
De Jongh's record, his intelligence, his commitment to public service and his broad experience are unmatched by any other candidate running for governor this year.
At 44, de Jongh has proven himself in all areas of public and private life. He has done it quietly and without a lot of fanfare. In fact, that may have worked to his disadvantage. When he entered the race, a surprising number of people didn't really know who John de Jongh was. We think they do now, and we think they like what they see.
John de Jongh is a breath of fresh air. First of all, he doesn't need this job. He is not a lifelong government employee, unable to make a living other than on the government dole, although he has lent his talent and time - pro bono in many instances - to the last several administrations. Hes also willing to take a risk. He did not take the safe course of waiting out the Turnbull administration's second term before making a run for governor. He saw what we see - and fear: that another four years of draining the treasury, of apathy and self-interest, of blatant corruption, of unaccredited schools and spiraling crime, would destroy the islands future economic viability and social stability. So he left a secure, high-paying job in the private sector to offer his skill, experience and commitment to the people of the Virgin Islands.
In our view, de Jongh stands out among the candidates for governor this year on many fronts, but none more so than financial management.
De Jongh has the experience and expertise - as no other candidate does - to begin to address the Virgin Islands terrible fiscal condition.
He served two terms on the Industrial Development Commission, now the Economic Development Commission, during the Juan Luis administration. He was the youngest person ever to serve as Finance commissioner, which he did during the Alexander Farrelly administration. As Finance commissioner, de Jongh was also named executive director of the newly formed Public Finance Authority. He was 31 at the time. It was an unpaid position that he handled in addition to his Finance Department responsibilities.
Along with his experience locally, de Jongh, while working as a senior management consultant for a private-public finance advisory firm, helped develop five-year plans for Philadelphia; New Haven, Connecticut; and Washington, D.C. In fact, de Jongh authored most of the current administration's Five-Year Operating and Strategic Financial Plan at the behest of Charles W. Turnbull.
Unfortunately, Turnbull chose to ignore much of what his own plan recommended to solve the territorys economic problems. And despite Turnbull's ongoing self-congratulations for paying long-overdue step increases, tax refunds and vendors bills — all positive actions — the reality behind that achievement is that Turnbull cashed in on one-time tax windfalls and borrowed more money — a lot more money — to accomplish that. So, with the V.I. debt at an all-time high and the attractiveness of V.I. government bonds extremely low, the chances of Turnbull being able to borrow enough to see us through another four years of waste, corruption, mismanagement and abuse are slim.
As for the rest of the competition, some very qualified people are running for governor this year. But de Jonghs breadth and depth of experience in and out of government make him a standout choice. As a past president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, for example, he understands the complex issues facing the children and families of these islands, most especially a failing public education system and the intractable poverty that is the lot of too many of our citizens. As a past president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, de Jongh understands the need for a healthy business climate, and for businesses to operate fairly and responsibly.
For all these reasons, we endorse John de Jongh for governor without reservation. He offers the hope of new leadership, new approaches and new solutions to old, entrenched problems. And the beauty of his candidacy is that, for the first time in recent memory, we can vote for someone instead of just against someone else.
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