Nov. 30, 2006 — Gov.-elect John deJongh "cast a wide net," inviting qualified residents "who are willing to work hard" to join the new administration. DeJongh's remarks were made during a Thursday press conference at the H2O Restaurant in La Grande Princess, St. Croix.
"During this transition period and then in the formation of the new administration, we will seek to cast as wide a net as possible in the hope that we will be the beneficiaries of the best of advice from all," deJongh said. "Now it is time for people who want to help make a difference to stand up and be counted — not to stand on the sidelines and either cheer or criticize."
Just nine days after winning the runoff election, deJongh and Lt. Gov.-elect Gregory Francis addressed V.I. residents to outline the structure of their transition and inaugural planning teams. Francis called the transition period a "busy time" and reiterated the team's commitment to put St. Croix first.
DeJongh selected three V.I. residents — one from each island — as transition team co-chairs: Ricardo J. Charaf, Jennifer Nugent-Hill and Andrew Penn Sr.
"This is the dawn of a new era," said Nugent-Hill, a former Housing Commissioner who worked alongside deJongh in the second term of the Farrelly administration. Currently she is the assistant vice president of Government/Public Affairs for Tropical Shipping on St. Croix.
"It is not our purpose as a transition team to set policy," Nugent-Hill said, adding the team "will begin to gather details on the current status of government" while maintaining "a great sense of honor and dignity."
Charaf is president of Charaf & Company, a property development and management company located on St. Thomas. He is also chairman of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
The third member of the team, St. John native Andrew D. Penn Sr., is chief operations manager of Penns Corporations, a position he has held since 1987. Penn is a member of the Coastal Zone Management Commission and volunteers with several youth organizations on that island.
Penn asked the community to "please come forward and assist us in making our home a place for generations to come." DeJongh said the future of the territory lies with the youth and was proud to have young talent such as Penn to assist the team.
According to deJongh, the transition team will meet Friday. Transition headquarters will be located on St. Croix above Mencho's Restaurant in Sion Farm. DeJongh noted Thursday that he is in contact with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who assured him the transition would be a smooth one. The governor-elect promised full representation for all islands, especially stressing to St. Croix residents that their issues would be addressed.
To head the inaugural planning committee, deJongh tapped retired Judge Eileen Petersen, the current chairman of the V.I. Casino Control Commission. The inaugural ceremonies will take place Jan. 1 on St. Thomas, as stipulated by V.I. law.
DeJongh said he was "honored that [the team members] would give their personal time" to make up the new cabinet. "In the next month," deJongh said to his team members, "you are more important than Greg and I."
Of the current department commissioners, deJongh said he would accept all resignations — a typical process at the end of an administration. He called for "talented young people to come back home" and asked those who are currently in the territory to come forth and be heard.
"We want people who understand the job and are willing to work hard," deJongh said. "The best results come when everyone is involved."
DeJongh said transition chairs will concentrate on nine task groups: education, sports and recreation, justice and public safety, financial affairs and taxation, health and human services, economic development and regulation, government personnel and operations, infrastructure, transportation and housing.
Stating all commissionerships will be full-time jobs and that appointees must be committed to their assigned departments, deJongh addressed the public's concerns on the new directions for the departments of Health, Education and Police.
DeJongh had specific objectives for V.I. law enforcement. "I plan to find the right leadership to implement programs and look at areas of policy in a more aggressive manner," he said. Areas of concern noted by deJongh were community policing, police sub stations and off- and on-island training of officers.
Regarding education, deJongh mentioned giving insular superintendents more control to run their districts, increasing the number of qualified teachers, and improving maintenance and infrastructure.
Noting that he had made no commitments regarding cabinet positions, the governor-elect asked all who are interested in applying for a position to send their resumes to the transition team website.
While only media and key personnel were allowed entrance to the press conference room, the adjoining dining room was filled with supporters and well-wishers. Seen hobnobbing were Sen.-elect Jimi Weber; former Sens. David Jones, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Carol Burke; and Sen. Pedro Encarnacion, along with several members of the Democratic Committee.
Paul Arnold, who ran with deJongh in his first bid for governor, was also in attendance to offer his support.
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