As a life-long Cruz Bay resident, St. Johnian Carmen Wesselhoft has witnessed the changing face of Love City and the Virgin Islands.
Instead of just complaining about problems which affect the territory, Wesselhoft is doing something about them — running for Senator at Large as a member of the Independent Citizens Movement party.
“I feel I could make a difference,” she said. “I would like to be a part of the solution. We’ve been at a stalemate with the same problems every year, especially in education.”
“We need to take what we tell our constituents seriously, stop making promises and do what we say we are going to do,” Wesselhoft continued.
This is the first time Wesselhoft is throwing her hat into the political ring and her motivation is heartfelt.
Love for Island, People
“I am running because of the love I have for my island and my people and the concern I have for the problems we are facing in the territory,” Wesselhoft said.
High property taxes is one of the major issues on St. John, Wesselhoft explained.
“Your property taxes should be based on the value of your land and not whether someone next door built a million-dollar home,” she said. “The hardships that our local people are faced with as far as owning land and home ownership needs to be addressed. It’s just not fair.”
Health care and education are two other major St. John-specific problems Wesselhoft pledged to address if elected.
“We must increase the services that we’re providing at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center,” she said. “We need a dialysis unit and birthing center. Also, we definitely need our own public high school.”
Move the School
Julius E. Sprauve School, from where Wesselhoft herself graduated, needs to be moved out of Cruz Bay, the Senator at Large hopeful explained.
“The school is surrounded by traffic, bars and restaurants on all sides,” she said. “It’s not the right environment for the kids to learn — there are too many distractions. We could use that area and develop it into a government complex.”
Restructure Dept. of Ed.
Territory-wide, all Virgin Islanders are facing the same problems with education and crime, according to Wesselhoft.
“We need to revamp and restructure our education system from the curriculum, to the responsibilities of the Board and Department of Education,” she said. “For example, I strongly believe we need to bring back instilling morals and values. Time has to be allotted for this from kindergarten on up.”
Respect for self, others and teachers must be taught in the schools from a young age, Wesselhoft added.
“We’ve strayed away from this and it is a big change,” she said. “It’s time to bring this back and make it part of the curriculum.”
Practical skills like plumbing and electrical work should also be included in the public school curriculum, according to the Senator at Large hopeful.
Give Students Life Skills
“These used to be taught in school and we need to bring these courses back and give our kids life skills that relate to our community,” she said. “We need to get the private sector more involved and link the kids so they can get the hands-on and technical experience they need.”
In order to fight crime, the root causes must be addressed, Wesselhoft explained.
“We have to find out why crime is on such a high increase,” she said. “We have to look at the family structure, drug and alcohol abuse problems in our society, the lack of education and the lack of opportunities. Then after we get that under some kind of control, we need to recruit high school students who are interested in becoming police officers.”
This is another opportunity for the private and public sectors to unite, which is a central theme of Wesselhoft’s campaign, she explained.
Link with UVI
“We should link with the University of the Virgin Islands and have them establish an Associate of Arts Degree in Police Science,” the Senator at Large hopeful said. “They would have a top-notch education and their education could be subsidized, or waived for a few years until they are officers for a while.”
Updated police facilities are also a necessity, Wesselhoft added.
“We definitely need a state of the art police academy to offer year round training and I would like to see a forensics lab built here,” she said. “I’m not speaking like I’m a professional on the subject, but I’ve talked to officers and found out that the public is afraid to bring forth information to solve crimes. A forensics lab will go a long way in assisting to solve crimes.”
As a former member of The Safety Zone’s board of directors, Wesselhoft feels strongly about the issue of domestic violence.
Stronger Penalties for Domestic Violence
“We need to impose stronger penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence,” she said. “I don’t think the problem is being taken seriously — we don’t do what is necessary to really deter or prevent it. The public is well educated about this issue, but it has been taken for granted for too long.”
Wesselhoft is also dedicated to seniors, she added.
“Senior citizens are a passion of mine and I would do anything necessary to make their quality of life better,” said the Senator at Large hopeful. “We need more houses for the independent-living seniors and we need a program for those seniors who need day-to-day attention. We need to link back with the Department of Human Services and the UVI could play a part as well.”
Nursing students at UVI could take part in caring for seniors as part of their curriculum, Wesselhoft added.
Warming Hearts at Christmas
There is one tradition that Wessel-hoft is committed to every year — her Christmas light decorations at her family home just outside Cruz Bay.
“We can’t forget that my most important project on St. John is the house with the Christmas lights,” she said. “I’ve always warmed the hearts of the locals and visitors alike. My mom started it off and I keep it up.”
Wesselhoft, the youngest of 10 children, attended JESS and Ivana Eudora Kean High School, where she earned a full scholarship to the University of the Virgin Islands. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management and upon graduation, worked with the UVI’s Extension Service Youth Development Program.
“I work with the 4H program where I use my knowledge of linking the private and public sectors to try to teach our kids life-long education skills,” the Senator at Large hopeful said.
Wesselhoft’s honesty is one of the traits that will make her a good Senator at Large, she said.
“People should vote for me because of my integrity, trustworthiness and fiscal responsibility,” said Wesselhoft. “I’ve been able to manage my own affairs properly and I could manage the people’s as well. I plan to serve the territory equally, fairly and with honesty.”