If elected governor, democratic gubernatorial candidate John deJongh plans to give St. John one thing residents have been crying out for a planner and more local authority.
I strongly support municipal government, said deJongh. Decisions are best made at the most local level possible. I advocate that we need to aggressively look at going toward municipal government.
Instituting a planner on St. John would be one of the first things deJongh would achieve in office, the candidate said.
I think St. John has gotten to the point where we need to look at what weve done and where were going, he said. Most importantly, I would have a planner within the office of the administrator, to begin looking at issues that are important to St. John, and to plan accordingly.
More Authority for Administrator
If elected, deJongh also plans to immediately give more authority to the islands administrator a governor-appointed position currently held by Julien Harley.
What I would immediately do is give authority to the administrator that he or she has never had, said deJongh. For example, I would make them a certified officer of the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, giving them the ability to spend and have control of the funding source. He or she wouldnt have to go to other departments to get things approved.
I would want to empower that person to have the ability to do things that require funding without going to other agencies, deJongh added.
Once those two steps are implemented, deJongh plans to look into implementing a high school on St. John, and transportation issues.
I want to get the foundation in place, and then look at the larger picture, he said.
deJonghs support of municipal government is also evident in his plan for district chiefs of police.
I am a very strong supporter of making sure that we have chiefs of police by districts, he said. The theme with me is decision-making at the most basic level. People have got to trust the police department.
Public, Private Sector Experience
DeJongh, who has experience both in government and in the private sector, said he believes his background will help him to be a successful governor.
Ive been on both sides of the table, deJongh said. Ive been in the private sector, where I saw the importance of government, and Ive been in government, which allowed me to understand how important the private sector is.
I understand exactly what we can achieve, and I understand how the government operates, so I know what levers need to be pushed to be able to achieve things, he added.
DeJongh has worked in the private sector with Chase Manhattan Bank, Public Financial Management Inc. and Lockhart Companies Incorporated, among others.
In the public sector, deJongh was appointed and reappointed by Gov. Juan Luis to the Industrial Development Commission; appointed to the position of Commissioner of Finance by Gov. Alexander Farrelly; served as executive assistant to Farrelly while also serving as Director of Finance and Administration of the V.I. Public Finance Authority; and has had several other upper-level positions in both the public and private sectors.
DeJongh hopes to use his strong financial background to make sure people know where their tax dollars are going, he said.
Financially, one of the biggest challenges we have today is accountability, transparency and financial reporting, said deJongh. You need to give people as much information as possible. You need to be transparent, and open up the books, so people will feel comfortable.
DeJongh, who has three children, ages 17, 15 and 9, plans to improve both education and economics, giving the territorys children a strong educational background with economic opportunities available when they graduate.
I want better education for our children, said deJongh. I think we need to get more folks involved in economic activity. I want us to get to the point where we can begin to produce children out of our schools who can compete, and who have economic opportunities in the Virgin Islands.
DeJongh purposely chose his campaign slogan, Together We Can, in an effort to unify the Virgin Islands, he said.
I really do believe that its only in the unified Virgin Islands that we will be able to achieve what we need to achieve, said deJongh. It doesnt matter whether youre born here or not, what your economic status is, what race you are its only when we come together that we will begin to achieve our potential. Territorially, weve gotten to the point where we see each other as competitors.
V.I. Must Define Itself in Caribbean
Unifying the Virgin Islands will allow the territory to focus on improvement, said deJongh.
The V.I. has to begin to define itself in the Caribbean, he said. By doing that, we will begin to have a strategy that looks more at things like quality cruise ships, airline traffic and financial services, and we can begin to expand our economy. We cant do that if St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John are fighting each other.
deJongh chose his running mate, Greg Francis, for his administrative and governmental skills and military background, he said.
Greg has had the opportunity as St. Croix administrator to hear peoples frustrations, said deJongh. All the administrators have concern that they dont have enough authority, and by having Greg here, he understands exactly what weve got to do.
Greg has been elected as chair of the St. Croix districts democratic party, so I wanted someone people feel comfortable with, and someone people know, he added.
Francis military background will help achieve government accountability, said deJongh.
Absence of Leadership, Accountability
I really believe that a lot of the problems we have revolve around the absence of leadership, transparency and accountability, said deJongh. Greg understands organization, discipline and leadership, and that weve got to bring folks together to be able to move forward. Hes clearly demonstrated that.
Bringing the V.I. up to par with other Caribbean countries is one thing deJongh hopes to achieve as governor, he said.
I come with experience to do the job, said deJongh. Putting the V.I. in a position that we can compete going into the next couple of years is extremely important.
For more information on the deJongh/Francis campaign, visit www.dejonghfrancis2006.com.