Wrapping up the third day of inaugural events which took place across the Virgin Islands, recently-elected Governor John deJongh and Lieutenant Governor Gregory Francis spent Wednesday, January 3, on Love City — and promised to return often.
“After the church service, I walked straight to the Battery — not to see the office, not to see the kitchen, but to see the bedroom because I plan on spending many nights here as we work to make sure St. John moves forward,” deJongh told an approving crowd of hundreds at the Franklin Powell Park.
The day began with an ecumenical service at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Cruz Bay, where Rev. Charles Crespo welcomed the new top brass and offered some tips about service and collaboration
Willingness To Serve
“It’s not about your position, its about your willingness to serve,” said Crespo. “Our responsibility as citizens is to work in collaboration with those we elected. Collaboration works so much better than jockeying for position.”
Insightful readings were given by deJongh’s daughter Rene deJongh, and St. John’s own Myrna George and Jonte Samuel. Renowned local songstress Shikima Jones sang a rousing a cappella prayer for the new governor and lieutenant governor.
The new administration is similar to two sets of electronic doors, the first of which closes behind before the second set opens, explained Crespo.
“This new administration is like a new set of doors opening and the possibilities are endless,” said Crespo.
DeJongh bowed his head as six members of various clergy laid hands on the new governor and the Cruz Bay Baptist Church’s Rev. Emmanuel Jaggernauth prayed for his health and well-being.
Prayers for Health, Honesty, Wisdom
Francis faced the crowded church as Rev. Lillette George of both the Bethany and Emmaus Moravian Churches prayed for the new lieutenant governor’s wisdom and honesty.
Following the recessional hymn “God of Grace, God of Glory,” the crowd filed down from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to Franklin A. Powell Sr. Park for the post-inauguration reception where Brion Morrisette acted as master of ceremonies.
Along the way, Francis and deJongh stopped to shake hands with a number of residents including Theodora Moorehead in Mooie’s.
A number of additional Love City residents braved the intermittent rain to hear deJongh and Francis give speeches and enjoy musical selections by both the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Pro-gram band, led by Steven Payne, and the Love City Pan Dragons.
Enthusiasm for New Brass
Love City pride and hospitality were on display at the park as the crowd of hundreds listened to St. John inaugural committee co-chair Kim Lyons give welcoming remarks.
“We are the least populated of the three islands, but that is superceded by our enthusiasm for the new governor and lieutenant governor,” said Lyons.
Francis is a man whose feet are firmly planted on the ground, according to his daughter Genelle Francis who introduced the new lieutenant governor.
“My dad works from the heart and speaks from the heart,” said Genelle Francis. “I couldn’t ask for a better dad or a better role model. He still remains himself — his feet are still firmly planted on the ground.”
St. John Will Not Be Forgotten
During their election campaign, the new governor and lieutenant governor spoke often about the need to change how the government operated, Francis explained.
“One thing that won’t change is that Gregory Francis will remain a plain-spoken man of the people,” said Francis.
While pointing out that he is a Crucian, Francis said that St. John will not be forgotten.
“Each island has its own needs and these needs must be met,” Francis said. “Failure is not an option.”
It was a once-in-a-lifetime honor to introduce the governor, Robert O’Conner explained as he offered remarks before deJongh took the podium.
While the governor was on island for inauguration festivities, he will not be a stranger to Love City, deJongh explained.
Getting To Know Governor
“I don’t want St. Johnians to think I came here just because it’s an election,” said deJongh. “We’ll get to know each other a lot more over the next several years.”
Pledging to lead a collaboration of private and public stakeholders, deJongh vowed to hire a city planner by the first quarter of his tenure and ensure that development on Love City is no longer short-sighted.
It is no longer acceptable that St. John’s students must travel to St. Thomas for high school, the new governor explained, throwing his weight behind the long-discussed construction of a school facility on Love City.
Government To Work for All
Having to travel to St. Thomas for basic medical needs is also unacceptable, deJongh explained.
“This government will work for all — we can do better,” said deJongh.
St. John’s economy must present opportunities for all of the residents, deJongh continued.
“We can no longer sit on the sidelines and let others reap the rewards of a St. John economy or a Virgin Islands economy,” said the new governor. “The charade we must now stop is one size fits all in the Virgin Islands. We must recognize the uniqueness of each island and build a sense of community.”
The real property tax revaluation will not force residents from their land, deJongh promised.
“While property values have skyrocketed, property taxes can and will be adjusted,” said deJongh.
Open Invitation To Public
Highlighting his campaign message “Together We Can,” deJongh invited the public to help him steer the course of the Virgin Islands’ future.
“I challenge everyone here today to get involved,” said deJongh. “I give you an open invitation to help me lead this community. Together we can achieve great things.”
DeJongh and Francis greeted hundreds of residents later on Wednesday afternoon when they hosted an open house reception at the Battery.
Residents in line to shake the new governor and lieutenant governor’s hands expressed hope and optimism for the new administration.
“The whole process is amazing to me,” Fraser Drummond, a St. John inauguration committee member, said about the day’s festivities. “We have the right governor for the right time. People have a burning desire to meet the governor.”
Coral Bay resident Pam Gaffin came out to meet the governor in order to request he fix a blunder made by out-going Gov. Charles Turnbull.
“I came to talk to the governor so he’ll know who I am and I will ask him to undo the government raises because it is ludicrous to give people raises when they can’t do their jobs,” Gaffin said. “That money should be taken back and given to school teachers. However, I do have high hopes for this administration”
Keep Wade, Says Gaffin
Gaffin had one more message for deJongh.
“Ira Wade can’t quit — we need him,” Gaffin added.
Dorothy Micheletti attended the meet and greet as well, but didn’t have time to change after work.
“When I met Gov. deJongh, I apologized for not dressing up because I wanted to meet him and I had to come straight from work,” said Micheletti. “He apologized to me for wearing a suit.