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GERS Seeking New Leader, New Strategic Plan

Dec 16, 2004 – The Government Employees Retirement System governing board discussed the process of hiring a new administrator and developing a strategic plan at its meeting on St. Croix Thursday.
The board didn't mention the problems plaguing it in recent months, including the controversial firing of its previous administrator, Laurence E. Bryan. (See "GERS Board Fires Bryan; Employees Protest") or a recent independent report concluding the fund is not being run properly (see "News Brief: Report Says GERS Not Doing Well").
The board has placed advertisements in media ranging from the Wall Street Journal to The St. Croix Avis to find a new administrator. It's not clear how the new administrator should differ from Bryan: employees protested his firing, but the only reason the board has given for the dismissal is to "move in a different direction," Avon Crossley, GERS loan service manager, said in November.
The ad lists, among other qualifications, a bachelors degree with concentration in finance, business or accounting; 10 years full-time management experience; knowledge of government operations; and "an ability to promote and maintain a harmonious relationship with the board of trustees."
The job will also pay well. According to the ad, the successful candidate will earn between $115,000 and $135,000 annually. Applicants have until Jan. 31 to respond.
Board member Leona E. Smith wanted to know whether a bachelors degree was sufficient.
Board member Carver Farrow said that the ad was worded so as not to disqualify V.I. residents. Raymond James, board chair, emphasized that the bachelors degree was simply a minimum requirement.
Willis Todman, acting administrator for GERS, told the Source he does not want to reveal at this time whether he is going to apply for the position.
The board also briefly discussed a draft of a strategic plan presented by senior GERS management. Farrow said that a more in-depth discussion should follow when board members have had more time to analyze the document. The idea of a board retreat to discuss the document was presented.
A presentation by JS Management, LLP, operators of Carambola Resort on St. Croix, had been on the public agenda. However, James said he had been informed that proprietary information would be brought up in that discussion, so it was relegated to an executive session. Todman said this was the first presentation the board would be hearing by JS Management, and that the information had been turned over to the board's investment analysts for consideration.
While nothing more definitive than Todman's phrase "investment analysts" was on the record, it is interesting to speculate about the nature of this agenda item. JS Management has been trying to obtain V.I. government backing to streamline the process for a casino at the beach resort. (See the St. Croix Source story "Carambola Owner-to-Be Plans Sports Center, Casino").
In the treasurer's report section of the meeting it was noted that contributions to the system in ratio to payments out to retirees had dropped drastically in recent years.
James said the board needed to look at issues relating to investments that could change that ratio. He noted that according to a report from acting administrator Todman, retirement system reform would be an issue with the 26th V.I. Legislature.
According to a letter distributed to members of the media at the meeting, James had been chosen in October to receive a Pathfinder Award from the National Association of Securities Professionals in New York. The organization represents people of color and women in the securities industry. The award is presented to an individual for his or her continuing efforts in leveling the playing field to allow minority firms to compete.

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