New USVI government to take office New Year’s Day

By John Collins
Special To HBN

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, USVI, December 29, 2006 – Both governor-elect John P. De Jongh and Lt. governor-elect Greg Francis of the US Virgin Islands are set to be sworn into office officially on January 1 in historic Emancipation Gardens.

De Jongh and Francis, both Democrats, were victorious in the territory’s run-off election November 21. The run-off became necessary when they narrowly failed to reach the required 50 percent plus one vote in the general election November 7.

The road to success was a long one for De John and required his participation in three elections. He had run unsuccessfully against outgoing Gov. Charles Wesley Turnbull in 2002. Then in the Democratic Party primary last September, De Jongh and Francis beat their challengers, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and Judge Edgar Ross.

The new governor attended primary and high schools in St. Thomas and Detroit. His father, a prominent St. Thomas attorney, married Delores Webb of Detroit After his parents divorced De Jongh grew up in Detroit where his mother was a social worker in the Detroit public schools.

De Jongh graduated from Antioch College with a BA in Economics in 1981 and participated in work-study positions in Houston, Philadelphia, the United Kingdom, the former Yugoslavia and in the Netherlands before returning to St Thomas.

His first position in the USVI was with the Tri-Island Economic Development Council where he obtained and managed grant funding for the redevelopment of historic structures in both St Thomas and St Croix.

Later De Jongh joined Chase Manhattan Bank, after attending its Credit Development Program, De Jongh became the first country consumer manager responsible for all consumer banking in the US and British Virgin Islands (BVI) as well as in St Maarten. Under De Jongh’s leadership Chase installed the first off-site ATMs, increased home mortgage lending as well as personal loans and changed the bank’s focus to consumer lending in the BVI.

De Jongh was drawn to public service when former Gov. Juan Luis appointed him to the Industrial Development Commission in 1984 and subsequently reappointed. When Alexander A. Farrelly became governor De Jongh was named commissioner of Finance, a post once held by his grandfather, Percy De Jongh. As commissioner from 1987 to 1990, De Jongh drafted the legislation establishing the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority (PFA) and served as its first executive director. He also participated in the establishment of the Capital Improvement Program and the Affordable Housing Program.

As chairman of the board of the Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority (1988-1992) De Jongh oversaw the execution bond offerings that were essential in providing funding for new generating units on both St Thomas and St Croix and for the power cable servicing St John.

From 1990 to 1992 De Jongh served as executive assistant to Gov. Farrelly, a position his father, John De Jongh Sr. had held in earlier administrations. He also served as director of Finance and as director of Finance and Administration of the PFA.

In 1993, he returned to the private sector as a senior managing consultant for Public Financial Management Inc. As co-manager of the firm’s Strategic Municipal Consulting practice, De Jongh helped develop and implement five-year plans for Philadelphia, New Haven, Ct. and Washington, DC. As a result all of them dramatically improved their financial standing.

Most recently, De Jongh served as president of Lockhart Companies Inc., overseeing the expansion of their real estate, insurance and financing business. While at Lockhart De Jongh also served as president of the St Thomas-St John Chamber of Commerce as well as a trustee of the Government Employees Retirement System. He recently served as co-chair of the Cruise Ship Task force which negotiated the Long Term Operating Agreement with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.

In 2002 De Jongh was chosen Rotary II Person of the Year. De Jongh served as the first executive director of the USVI Democratic Party and currently also serves as a trustee of Antilles School.

As a native of St. Croix, the new lieutenant governor served as the administrator of the island which estimates that more than one-third of its population is Puerto Rico-born or descended. He attended Christiansted Grammar School, Christiansted High School and Central High School before entering the US Army for a 27-year career. Francis served in Germany as well as in Puerto Rico and the USVI.

Francis served as Virgin Islands director of Veterans Affairs from 1999 to 2001. He is proud of his efforts to have eliminated the wait by USVI veterans for prescriptions from Puerto Rico and the subsequent opening of VA pharmacies and clinics in the USVI.

Francis served as Administrator of St. Croic from 2001 to 2006 when he resigned to join De Jongh as lieutenant gubernatorial candidate. He is particularly proud of his service as chairman of the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee for two years. He changed the concept of the annual event from fun and entertainment to culture and education. As a result the event’s revenues increased from activities associated with it.

Francis is a member of the King Solomon Grand Lodge in New York and the American Legion and serves as a volunteer with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

Most people don’t know it but the USVI has outstripped the Dominican Republic as the biggest trading partner of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. The $1.8 billion trade is heavily in favor of the USVI because of the massive Hovensa Refinery on St. Croix, which is a major supplier to Puerto Rico. The refinery is a joint venture between Hess Oil and Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

But the interaction between the USVI and Puerto Rico covers a broad spectrum of activities. – Medical care is an important area with some hospitals in San Juan, like Pavia, estimating their number of patients from the USVI as one-fifth of the total. – San Juan for many years has attracted visitors from the USVI and elsewhere in the Caribbean who are good customers of Plaza Las Americas and other shopping meccas in the metropolitan area. Two of the most important routes of American Eagle in the Caribbean are those connecting Luis Munoz Marin International Airport with St. Thomas and St. Croix. The American Eagle hub has emerged as the largest employer at LMMIA.

Both De Jongh and Francis have pledged to expand all facets of the relationship between the USVI and Puerto Rico, the two US flag territories in the Caribbean. (Hardbeatnews.com)