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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 15, 2022
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FIRST CABINET MEMBERS SWORN IN

Ten of the cabinet members responsible for instituting Gov. Charles Turnbull's 15 percent budget cut over the next few weeks were sworn into office Tuesday at a ceremony at Government House.
"If there was ever a time that the Virgin Islands needed good leaders it is now," Senate Vice President Judy Gomez said. "I commend you for rising to this enormous challenge because in times like these many cringe from the seat of leadership because they're intimidated by the complexity of the hour and the seriousness of the moment."
The cabinet members will be the main policy makers in revamping the government, Turnbull said.
"We rejoice in the individuals we have called to service during these difficult and challenging years in our history," Turnbull said. "We must act as instruments of the mandate to rethink and refocus government in the most efficient and effective ways. I believe we can achieve a better balance of government and the private sector if we find innovative ways so to make government less costly."
The following commissioners took their oath of office: Wilbur Callender, Health; Sedonie Halbert, Human Services; Ira Hobson, Housing Parks and Recreation; Andrew Rutnik, Licensing and Consumer Affairs; Ruby Simmonds, Education; and Bernice Turnbull, Finance.
Also sworn in were Attorney General Iver Stridiron, Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills, Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Claudette Farrington, and Office of Collective Bargaining Chief Negotiator Karen Andrews.
The new cabinet members were pleased to shed the acting and designee titles that have accompanied their names for the last several months.
"Although the title acting has been appended to our name, we have not been acting. We have been working and performing for the last five to six months," Simmonds said.
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said the administration had chosen the "most competent, committed and skilled individuals."
"I challenge all of you who are in positions of responsibility to think of new ways to deliver service to the people at a lower cost," James said. "In every program under your division you should ask 'Does it work the way it's supposed to? Does it provide quality service at the least expense? Does it encourage innovation and reward hard work?' If the answer to these questions is no . . . we should change it or either get rid of it."
Many of the cabinet members spoke of the territory's fiscal problems.
"My part as director of OMB is not going to be easy so please don't expect every answer to be a yes and remember if the answer is a no, it's for your good, it's for my good, as well as the community's good," Mills said. "We've all contributed to the problems we have today, whether we did it actively or did it passively . . . and so I would like to call on all of us to contribute again to making this Virgin Islands the best Virgin Islands."
Many talked confidently of overcoming the financial crisis.
"This Virgin Islands is going to be the most prosperous islands of the Caribbean," Bernice Turnbull said. "I know this government is going to turn around, we just ask you to be patient. As the old people say, 'Let us all suck the salt together, for we are going to be sucking sugar in a little while.'"
Halbert and Simmonds, however, both said there are more dire problems facing the territory than its sagging finances.
"The greatest challenge facing us is the pervasive erosion of the family structure and the increasing disregard for moral values," Halbert said. "Even if we revive financially, we have absolutely no future unless we can sit down and make a plan for the recovery of our family and our children."
The success of the territory also hinges on motivating its students, Simmonds said.
"We believe that one of the problems we face is that our children have lost their way because they don't feel good about themselves," she said. "We have to fix their hearts and their heads before we fix anything else in the community."
Rutnik said the government needs a cabinet of compassionate and firm leaders.
"We need leaders who will know when it's somebody's birthday, but we also need leaders who will make sure people punch their time cards on time," he said. "I know we hear about cuts, about saving money, but we have to learn how to make money, how to collect revenues."
Senate President Vargrave Richards told the cabinet members not to be swayed by their own critics.
"We're in troubled times and we have to bite the bullet and oftentimes when you have to make those hard, cold decisions, you become a subject of discourse in our community . . . but you have to stand firm. I think in the past we've some leaders that backed off," Richards said
"We don't need any control board from any place else . . . Our control board is in place under the grander vision and I believe this grander vision is going to bail us out," he said.
Turning political, Turnbull defended his administration against its emerging critics.
"This administration is not concerned so much about what today's headlines might say and even tomorrow's. We are more concerned with what history will say 20 and 30 years from now, " Turnbull said. "We would like the books to say that this was the administration that stopped the bleeding, this was the administration that made it easier for other administrations to succeed.
"We are not for the moment, this historian governor is not for the moment, we are for the ages," Turnbull said.
Gomez told the new cabinet members their actions over the next few years will affect future generations.
"Consider that the children are watching, they are watching your words and deeds, they are watching how well you are maintaining and managing their inheritance, which is now entrusted to you," Gomez said. "For the sake of the children of the Virgin Islands put the egotistical, petty, political gesturing aside, put away self interest, and form a positive agenda that will empower our children and us."
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Ten of the cabinet members responsible for instituting Gov. Charles Turnbull's 15 percent budget cut over the next few weeks were sworn into office Tuesday at a ceremony at Government House.
"If there was ever a time that the Virgin Islands needed good leaders it is now," Senate Vice President Judy Gomez said. "I commend you for rising to this enormous challenge because in times like these many cringe from the seat of leadership because they're intimidated by the complexity of the hour and the seriousness of the moment."
The cabinet members will be the main policy makers in revamping the government, Turnbull said.
"We rejoice in the individuals we have called to service during these difficult and challenging years in our history," Turnbull said. "We must act as instruments of the mandate to rethink and refocus government in the most efficient and effective ways. I believe we can achieve a better balance of government and the private sector if we find innovative ways so to make government less costly."
The following commissioners took their oath of office: Wilbur Callender, Health; Sedonie Halbert, Human Services; Ira Hobson, Housing Parks and Recreation; Andrew Rutnik, Licensing and Consumer Affairs; Ruby Simmonds, Education; and Bernice Turnbull, Finance.
Also sworn in were Attorney General Iver Stridiron, Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills, Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Claudette Farrington, and Office of Collective Bargaining Chief Negotiator Karen Andrews.
The new cabinet members were pleased to shed the acting and designee titles that have accompanied their names for the last several months.
"Although the title acting has been appended to our name, we have not been acting. We have been working and performing for the last five to six months," Simmonds said.
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said the administration had chosen the "most competent, committed and skilled individuals."
"I challenge all of you who are in positions of responsibility to think of new ways to deliver service to the people at a lower cost," James said. "In every program under your division you should ask 'Does it work the way it's supposed to? Does it provide quality service at the least expense? Does it encourage innovation and reward hard work?' If the answer to these questions is no . . . we should change it or either get rid of it."
Many of the cabinet members spoke of the territory's fiscal problems.
"My part as director of OMB is not going to be easy so please don't expect every answer to be a yes and remember if the answer is a no, it's for your good, it's for my good, as well as the community's good," Mills said. "We've all contributed to the problems we have today, whether we did it actively or did it passively . . . and so I would like to call on all of us to contribute again to making this Virgin Islands the best Virgin Islands."
Many talked confidently of overcoming the financial crisis.
"This Virgin Islands is going to be the most prosperous islands of the Caribbean," Bernice Turnbull said. "I know this government is going to turn around, we just ask you to be patient. As the old people say, 'Let us all suck the salt together, for we are going to be sucking sugar in a little while.'"
Halbert and Simmonds, however, both said there are more dire problems facing the territory than its sagging finances.
"The greatest challenge facing us is the pervasive erosion of the family structure and the increasing disregard for moral values," Halbert said. "Even if we revive financially, we have absolutely no future unless we can sit down and make a plan for the recovery of our family and our children."
The success of the territory also hinges on motivating its students, Simmonds said.
"We believe that one of the problems we face is that our children have lost their way because they don't feel good about themselves," she said. "We have to fix their hearts and their heads before we fix anything else in the community."
Rutnik said the government needs a cabinet of compassionate and firm leaders.
"We need leaders who will know when it's somebody's birthday, but we also need leaders who will make sure people punch their time cards on time," he said. "I know we hear about cuts, about saving money, but we have to learn how to make money, how to collect revenues."
Senate President Vargrave Richards told the cabinet members not to be swayed by their own critics.
"We're in troubled times and we have to bite the bullet and oftentimes when you have to make those hard, cold decisions, you become a subject of discourse in our community . . . but you have to stand firm. I think in the past we've some leaders that backed off," Richards said
"We don't need any control board from any place else . . . Our control board is in place under the grander vision and I believe this grander vision is going to bail us out," he said.
Turning political, Turnbull defended his administration against its emerging critics.
"This administration is not concerned so much about what today's headlines might say and even tomorrow's. We are more concerned with what history will say 20 and 30 years from now, " Turnbull said. "We would like the books to say that this was the administration that stopped the bleeding, this was the administration that made it easier for other administrations to succeed.
"We are not for the moment, this historian governor is not for the moment, we are for the ages," Turnbull said.
Gomez told the new cabinet members their actions over the next few years will affect future generations.
"Consider that the children are watching, they are watching your words and deeds, they are watching how well you are maintaining and managing their inheritance, which is now entrusted to you," Gomez said. "For the sake of the children of the Virgin Islands put the egotistical, petty, political gesturing aside, put away self interest, and form a positive agenda that will empower our children and us."
(f)