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HomeNewsArchivesMeet a New Senator: Patrick Simeon Sprauve

Meet a New Senator: Patrick Simeon Sprauve

Feb. 12, 2009 — At first glance, Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve may appear to have more of a reserved air, and a quiet way of talking. But get him going for a few minutes on issues such as health care or education, and you'll get an earful about the territory's need for more mental health facilities, senior citizen homes and programs for local youth.
The father of two young sons, Sprauve says he wants to be seen as a good role model. From a young age, Sprauve received his mother's emphasis on the importance of a good education — a lesson that was also underscored by his teachers at Nisky Elementary School (now known as Ulla F. Muller Elementary) and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School on St. Thomas, he said.
"My dad died when I was about eight or nine years old," Sprauve said in a recent interview. "So my mom was really the backbone of our family and she gave me a good foundation. She made sure I studied, first and foremost, made sure I got a good education and always wanted me to come back and do something for the community. That was also one of the most important things I learned from my teachers — back in those days, it wasn't about the money or those things for them. It was about their dedication to the students, and that's what really drove me to excel, not only in school but in the community as well."
The goal was to either become a lawyer or senator, Sprauve said. Working his way through college, he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Hampton University in the early 1990's, then stayed on campus as a freshman professor. Returning to the territory a short time later, Sprauve began working at the Department of Finance, but a chance encounter with former Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd brought him closer to his political dreams. In 2001, Sprauve began working as the executive director of the 24th Legislature.
His next run in the halls came last September, when local Democratic Party members tapped Sprauve to serve out the term of former St. Thomas Sen. Basil Ottley Jr. The three-month stint was an eye-opening experience, he said.
"When I was growing up, I thought I would have finished the law thing first, then gone on to be a senator," Sprauve said. "But the Senate opportunity came first, and sitting in the seat those first few months was an overwhelming experience. I really came to understand what being a senator entails. The public embraced me, and the desire to run for Senate again was, for me, even more than before."
The biggest challenge during the three months, Sprauve said, was really getting a handle on the community's needs. Now, stepping into his first full two-year term as the chair of the Senate's Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services, Sprauve said he's still in the information gathering mode, trying to feel out what the issues are before holding his first committee meeting next month.
"I've been trying to work with the different agencies to come up with a list of all the critical areas that need to be addressed, and trying to base legislation on that," he said. "One of the most important things you see in terms of major issues in health care is that residents are looking for quality care that's also affordable. People don't go to the doctor because they have to pay so much money out of pocket. I have seen that the number of people going abroad for treatment has decreased, because we have much better doctors here now, but even though we've made some strides, there are still several areas that need to be addressed."
Building local mental health care facilities is on the top of the priority list, Sprauve said.
"We have hundreds of homeless people in the Virgin Islands, and we have to find a way to help them," he said. "That means finding a way to rehabilitate people and making sure they take their medication. Then, they could be re-integrated into the community and would be contributing citizens once again. The big thing is bringing in the funding to build the facilities we need and partnering with the different government agencies to make sure the services are delivered."
Creating supervised environments that would give senior citizens the opportunity to remain active, setting up a universal health care program that benefits both business owners and employees, and building more recreational centers for students are the next set of goals, Sprauve said.
"Change is not going to happen overnight, but if we begin to put different things in place now, we'll begin to see the light at the end of the rainbow," he added.
As a freshman professor at Hampton, Sprauve said he saw firsthand some of the issues that follow students from high school to college — from dealing with drugs to dealing with gun violence, the experience became the basis for Sprauve's mentorship program at the Romeo Malone Center in Savan.
"We have to make sure the kids know they have role models," he said. "That means taking an active role in getting the gang stuff out of schools, and putting in place preventative measures that curb the kind of violence we're seeing in the community. At the center, we help the young men with reading and oral presentations and make sure to teach them that education is a top priority."
Sprauve's new "I'm a G" program will also be rolling out soon.
"When you hear people talking about being a 'g,' it's associated with things like being a gangster, making all the money, being in a gang. With our program, 'g' stands for graduate — we're going to work with people that have graduated from the different schools and really start showing the kids that these are the things you have to do to lead a positive life," Sprauve said. "Getting the house on the hill and the money in the bank can be done the old-fashioned way — hard work. And that has to be the focus — it has to be a concerted effort from the community, a message that's spread through the schools. We've got to give the kids something positive to work with instead of just the same old rhetoric."

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