March 1, 2007 – The nominations of Vincent Frazer as attorney general and Beverly Nicholson Doty as Tourism commissioner sailed through the Senate's Rules and Judiciary Committee Thursday with all seven committee members giving their assent.
Indeed, at times it seemed like many of them, as well as their noncommittee colleagues, belonged to the Beverly Nicholson Doty fan club.
"This is the epitome of what the Tourism Department has needed for a long time," Sen. Alvin Williams said, as numerous Doty supporters listened from the gallery at the Senate's St. Thomas chambers.
Sen. James Weber III, who indicated he was Doty's brother-in-law, said she would be the best thing to happen to St. Croix when it came to tourism. And Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone told her she was the one for the job.
Doty spent her first day on the job as tourism commissioner-designee answering questions from the senators. She comes to the job after many years in the tourism industry, most recently as president of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association. "I've already proven I can contend in this field," she said.
In about three hours of questioning, Doty repeatedly used two phrases to make her case — "leverage relationships" and "return on investment."
Doty pledged to use relationships with other government agencies to improve the tourism product, and with the private sector to maximize the Tourism Department's annual budget of $16 million from the Tourism Revolving Fund. Of that figure, $8 million goes for advertising.
She also said she planned to eliminate the territory's six mainland tourism offices. Instead, the people working in those offices will become part of the territory's sales forces that will utilize laptops to travel around and sell the territory.
"The savings in real estate can be used to expand the sales force," she said.
Sen. Carlton Dowe, who chaired the meeting, said he recently waited three and a half hours for the person staffing the Tourism Department office in Atlanta to show up — although the sign said they'd be right back.
"And she was wearing a jogging suit and slippers," he said, speaking of the woman's unprofessional attire.
Doty said she's already brought on board an assistant tourism commissioner for St. Croix, Brad Nugent. Previously, the department had only one assistant commissioner, Monique Sibilly-Hodge, who remains on the job.
She said that efforts will be made to develop a brand for St. Croix in an effort to increase tourism and bring back cruise ships. She said that cultural and heritage tourism will be a focus for St. Croix.
"There has to be separate marketing because St. Croix is not as seasoned a destination as the others," she said.
She also agreed that St. Thomas' tourism product is on the decline thanks in part to congestion and lack of cleanliness.
She said that she'll appoint a communications director to bring the tourism message to local residents who don't understand its importance to the economy.
The only touchy questioning came when a couple of senators tried to find out her feelings on a mainly private-sector Tourism Authority proposed in the previous legislature.
Doty said that while she encouraged public/private partnerships, she didn't advocate a Tourism Authority run entirely by the private sector.
In questioning Frazer, a St. Thomas attorney who had a private practice until taking on the attorney general's job nearly a month ago, several senators suggested that the troubled Corrections Bureau be severed from the Justice Department.
"After I fix it, yes," he said.
He said he plans to step up training of Corrections Bureau officers so they're treated as and see themselves as professionals.
Under questioning by noncommittee member Sen. Liston Davis, Frazer said he knows that some corrections officers have crossed boundaries with inmates. "In some cases corrective measures were not taken," he said.
He hedged when Davis asked him if "cohabitation" had taken place but said instead that there were a lot of issues to be addressed.
He said there were close to 100 vacancies in the Corrections Bureau, with money budgeted to fill those positions.
Frazer said he plans to augment the number of assistant attorneys general so there is sufficient staff to prosecute all the cases that come to his office.
He said he would also prosecute government workers and officials who break the law.
Frazer added that he and acting Police Commissioner James McCall were already working on improving relations between the Police and Justice departments.
While nearly all the senators stuck to the issue of the nominations, Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville took time to attack St. Croix radio personality Roger W. Morgan, apparently for allowing people to speak their mind on his radio show.
"Roger W. Morgan and his KKK cronies may want to recall you too," he said in an impassioned speech.
Serville and three other St. Croix senators are the subject of a recall petition by St. Croix voters for their role in approving huge salary increases for themselves in the previous Legislature.
In addition to Malone, Weber, Dowe, and Williams, Sens. Usie Richards, Carmen Wesselhoft and Celestino White Sr. voted to approve both nominations.
The nominations now must pass the full Senate.
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