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Monday, November 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesMeet a New Senator: Michael Thurland

Meet a New Senator: Michael Thurland

Feb. 3, 2009 — Freshman Sen. Michael Thurland, Democrat, was born on St. Croix in 1971, the last of six children born to Peter G. Thurland Jr. and Beulah Gomez-Thurland. His father's family is from Christiansted, and both his father and grandfather were well-known joiners and cabinetmakers in the town.
His grandfather was also a founder of St. Croix Community Bank in the early 1900s, Thurland said in an interview with the Source.
"My father's side of the family has been on St. Croix since the mid 1700s," he said. "But we're interrelated with many of the families; a heritage we are all proud of. My mother's father migrated to St. Croix from Vieques in 1920."
Spending his childhood and adolescence on the big island, Thurland attended Pearl B. Larsen Elementary, Elena Christian Jr. High and St. Joseph's High School. Upon graduating, Thurland pursued his baccalaureate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., earning a B.A. in history and political science.
After college he returned to St. Croix, teaching social studies at St. Croix Educational Complex for six years, then moved from that post to become chief of staff to Sen. Emmett Hansen II in the 24th Legislature. In 2003, he left to work as legislative assistant to Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
While a teacher, Thurland served as a union representative. He was a part-time instructor at the University of the Virgin Islands for a time and a UNESCO scholar, traveling to Africa, Europe and around the Caribbean to help develop an educational curriculum focusing on the historic slave-trading routes. He has executive experience as the president of two non-profit organizations, V.I. Housing Counselors and the service fraternity Omega Psi Phi, Eta Iota Iota chapter.
"With Virgin Islands Housing Counselors, our intention is to be a one-stop shop to learn how to get a loan, how to navigate the banking process and purchase a home," he said.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature three times before succeeding on the fourth. He is also an elected delegate to the Fifth Constitutional Convention, where he chairs the Committee on the Executive Branch.
As a senator, Thurland says he wants to promote small business, education and sustainable development.
"Small businesses are the lifeblood, the driving force, for growth in our economy," he said. "I have a small-business background, and I believe the more we can do to help the small businesses to become more sustainable, to survive and grow, the more they will help to sustain the economy as a whole."
He is a strong advocate of public education and says he will work to ensure "Education gets all the resources it can, to help prepare our students to become productive in society."
Finding a way to lower the cost of transporting goods and people between St. Croix and the other Virgin Islands is a priority, too.
"I think we need to look at how Puerto Rico subsidizes their transportation infrastructure for moving goods between the outlying islands and the mainland," he said. "I think a similar approach will help here, and the cheaper flow of goods and people will help our economy grow and develop faster."
Expanding long-term care for the aged and beefing up preschool programs are on his wish list, too, along with improving road maintenance, upgrading the sewer system and doing what is necessary to help move the territory toward alternative-power generation.
"It's a long list, but I'm in the majority, so I think I'm in position to move some of the items on the agenda and get them done," Thurland said.
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