Open forum: USVI Should Alternate the Head of the GERS Between Districts

GERS Trustee Ronald Russell brings back old plan to save GERS. (Screenshot from Zoom)

I write this letter asking for Virgin Islands community support for the concept of alternating the chairmanship of the GERS system between St. Thomas/St. John District and St. Croix District. This concept originates in fairness, representative leadership, and the status of our territory. The Legislature alternates the president of the Legislature between the two districts. History demonstrates that because the last three chairs of the board of trustees was elected from the St. Thomas/St. John district, this election should be relegated to a representative from St. Croix. Member retirees reside in both districts.

The GERS system has major building complexes in both districts. In fairness to all current employees paying into the system and all retirees relying on the system for their pension, fairness should dictate.

Next, a vision for our GERS system includes an attempt to implement vigorous pursuit of a return of the gasoline excise tax or a portion thereof to support our system, provide revenue to revamp our energy, and support healthcare. It includes approaching the U.S. Senate through the finance chair for the increase of the rum cover-over to $13.50 per barrel.

This increase would better stabilize the system moving forward – immediately restoring the GERS loan program with proper safeguards to protect the investment in our people – retrofitting the two major structures owned by the system to be completely based on renewable energy; the system could lead the territory toward renewable energy as a prime example of how renewable energy would help all residents and businesses in a territory – immediate development of the large tracts of land, owned by the system to benefit the members who pay into the system; succession planning policy and procedure for all leaders in the system.

This vision is very doable. Recently, I published an executive order for five days while the President was here on St. Croix. The concept generated interest among the presidential team visiting St. Croix. Our trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby with the president’s team and U.S. senators was postponed. However, with new leadership, we can begin to implement a very progressive, positive and inclusive agenda for the GERS.

Assuming this very important role in the system requires experience, accountability and expertise. Remember, the GERS system is the second biggest public financial institution of the territory. Thank you for your support for this concept.

Ronald E. Russell

GERS Board of Trustee member