Mr. Smith Goes to the Capital

Pictured above: Senators of the 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Senator-At-Large Brian A. Smith stands at the top right of the group.
Photo courtesy of Government House.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — January 9 was a big day in the life of Brian A. Smith. The new Senator-At-Large raised his right hand along with 13 other lawmakers in a public ceremony to take his oath of office as a member of the 32nd Legislature.

Smith, a former educator, businessman and retired federal probation officer said it was also a big day for his constituents on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. As senator-at-large he is the only lawmaker to represent Virgin Islanders, territory-wide.

Like his Senate colleagues, Smith joined in the pomp and circumstance of inauguration day. There was music by the Charlotte Amalie High School and Ivanna Eudora Kean bands. The soaring voices of tenor Gylchris Sprauve and soprano Lorna Freeman delivering the anthems.

And there were wise, reflective words from educator, historian and former governor Charles Turnbull.

All inductees sat quietly through it all, speaking only at the moment when Chief VI Supreme Court Justice Rhys Hodge led them through the recitation of the oath.

The time for making remarks as personal privilege came later, when the body recessed from the David Monsanto bandstand in Emancipation Garden and reconvened inside the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers.

Smith waited patiently as each lawmaker thanked their family, friends and supporters. Some laid out their plans for what they would accomplish over the next two years. Others hoped for cooperation between the Democratic majority and the Senate minority.

Then it was Smith’s turn. “I’m here today because I have to be here. When I hear the plight of the people on the streets on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, that’s why I showed up,” he said.

The new senator-at-large pledged to work diligently to improve life in the Virgin Islands. He also spoke directly to the need to grow the local economy through the private sector. “I want to make one thing clear. I am pro business,” Smith said.

By then, enthusiasm caught up with him as he addressed each of his fellow lawmakers, giving them his impressions of how their partnerships would grow. That enthusiasm grew to the point where the call of the Senate timekeeper got lost in the words.

The five allotted minutes were done. The new Senate President Myron D. Jackson gently interrupted. Smith apologized and resumed his seat.

His energy and passion will be needed to staff up, run offices on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix and to lead the 32nd Legislature Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety, the assignment he was given by the Senate leadership as the new senate session begins.