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HomeNewsArchivesFull Senate Confirms Nominees for DPNR, Fire Services and Labor

Full Senate Confirms Nominees for DPNR, Fire Services and Labor

April 17, 2007 — Three of the deJongh administration's newly appointed cabinet members were confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday, receiving much praise and advice from senators who said they were "hopeful" the nominees would be able to face the myriad challenges awaiting them.
Unanimously confirmed during the session were: Robert S. Mathes, tapped to head the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; Victor Browne, as the territory's Fire Services director; and Albert Bryan Jr., who will serve as the commissioner of Labor.
Later in the meeting, senators also approved the nominations of Noel A. Loftus, Juanita Young and Donald C. Francois to the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board, along with the nominations of Gordon A. Finch and Hector Peguero, who will serve on the governing board of the V.I. Port Authority.
"We have a mixture of people here before us, and that's very good," said Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, who, as chairman of the Senate's Committee on Rules and Judiciary, was tasked with introducing each nominee. "I really believe that they are all well-rounded and bring to the table the wealth of experience and knowledge needed to carry out their respective duties."
Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR)
While senators voted in favor of Mathes' nomination on Tuesday, many also raised concerns about a number of problems currently plaguing DPNR — including a shortage of employees, a convoluted permitting process and the need to revamp and restructure several of the agency's existing divisions.
In particular, senators said they would be looking for improvements within the department's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Office, whose small six-person staff has little or no planning experience. "There are no planners within the department and there haven't been for years," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. "So the idea that we have experienced individuals doing the planning for the department is a farce."
Filling the department's many vacancies was also a concern for Dowe, who told Mathes that several new building inspectors and law enforcement officers are needed to beef up the department's permitting and environmental protection processes.
"There were challenges before, and there are challenges now in the area of permitting," Dowe said. "We can't say, for example, that we want economic growth but don't have anyone to do the building inspections."
Mathes raised similar concerns at a Rules Committee hearing held earlier this month, and said that he would be working aggressively to address the department's most pressing issues.
"I thank you all for your support," Mathes said during Tuesday's hearing, after his nomination was approved. "And I will continue to look for a continuation of that support as we strive to make the Virgin Islands the best place in which to live."
Fire Services
Over the past few weeks, several residents have questioned whether Browne, a certified public accountant, is well-equipped to handle the day-to-day operations of V.I. Fire Services. While senators on Tuesday admitted that they had previously harbored similar concerns, many also said they were impressed by Browne's quick on-the-job learning abilities and the relationships he has already formed with the territory's fire chiefs.
"Just because someone is a manager, doesn't mean they can't run the fire department," said Dowe, a former fire chief. "We've had accountants run the department before and they did the job well. And in this case, I think Mr. Browne is eminently qualified for the position."
Dowe's sentiments were echoed by Sen. Ronald E. Russell, who said that Browne's "honesty" and "management style" will allow the agency to get more involved with local public safety issues and initiatives.
While offering his support for the nomination, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson added that Browne should use his accounting experience to balance the agency's budget. "You have to manage your budget to maximize the use of your resources," he said. "And I'm confident that you will be able to do that, and I think that you will make a good manager."
"You're not being hired to find a hose and pull it out of a truck," added Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. "You're being hired to make sure there's enough hoses for the troops who need them."
Department of Labor
Bursting with praise, senators showered Bryan with overwhelming support on Tuesday, saying that the young commissioner-designee has a clear understanding of local labor issues and the dedication needed to "get the job done."
"We saved the best for last," said Sen. Neville James, who added that he was "impressed" with the way Bryan carried himself during a Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting held last month.
"I didn't even need to ask you any questions because you were so good," James said. "And you were real. You were confident and learned, and I wish you luck with the Department of Labor."
While other senators continued to offer Bryan a smorgasbord of accolades and compliments, many also took the time to address some of the challenges facing the department and the territory's labor force.
"One of the biggest issues we're facing now, for example, is Hovensa, who still continues to import workers from the mainland to do projects when there is a high unemployment rate on St. Croix and parts of St. Thomas," Russell explained. "They should be coming to the local workforce, and I'm hopeful that you are the change we need to deal with this situation."
At-Large Sen. Carmen M. Wesselhoft also urged Bryan to increase the department's presence on St. John, whose workforce is steadily increasing. "Everything is booming on our little island — the labor force is booming, construction is booming, and so there is a need for a permanent place for the department on St. John," she said.
Speaking after his nomination had been approved, Bryan said that he would be, over the next four years, working to fulfill the "dreams" of the new administration and the Senate.
"The governor told me this was going to be fun, and so far, I'm having a great time," Bryan said, smiling amid loud bursts of applause from senators and family members in the audience. "And I hope that all the wishes and dreams of this administration and this body will come true so we can all be proud of our Department of Labor."
All senators were present during Tuesday's session.
The session continues on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
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April 17, 2007 -- Three of the deJongh administration's newly appointed cabinet members were confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday, receiving much praise and advice from senators who said they were "hopeful" the nominees would be able to face the myriad challenges awaiting them.
Unanimously confirmed during the session were: Robert S. Mathes, tapped to head the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; Victor Browne, as the territory's Fire Services director; and Albert Bryan Jr., who will serve as the commissioner of Labor.
Later in the meeting, senators also approved the nominations of Noel A. Loftus, Juanita Young and Donald C. Francois to the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board, along with the nominations of Gordon A. Finch and Hector Peguero, who will serve on the governing board of the V.I. Port Authority.
"We have a mixture of people here before us, and that's very good," said Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, who, as chairman of the Senate's Committee on Rules and Judiciary, was tasked with introducing each nominee. "I really believe that they are all well-rounded and bring to the table the wealth of experience and knowledge needed to carry out their respective duties."
Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR)
While senators voted in favor of Mathes' nomination on Tuesday, many also raised concerns about a number of problems currently plaguing DPNR -- including a shortage of employees, a convoluted permitting process and the need to revamp and restructure several of the agency's existing divisions.
In particular, senators said they would be looking for improvements within the department's Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Office, whose small six-person staff has little or no planning experience. "There are no planners within the department and there haven't been for years," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. "So the idea that we have experienced individuals doing the planning for the department is a farce."
Filling the department's many vacancies was also a concern for Dowe, who told Mathes that several new building inspectors and law enforcement officers are needed to beef up the department's permitting and environmental protection processes.
"There were challenges before, and there are challenges now in the area of permitting," Dowe said. "We can't say, for example, that we want economic growth but don't have anyone to do the building inspections."
Mathes raised similar concerns at a Rules Committee hearing held earlier this month, and said that he would be working aggressively to address the department's most pressing issues.
"I thank you all for your support," Mathes said during Tuesday's hearing, after his nomination was approved. "And I will continue to look for a continuation of that support as we strive to make the Virgin Islands the best place in which to live."
Fire Services
Over the past few weeks, several residents have questioned whether Browne, a certified public accountant, is well-equipped to handle the day-to-day operations of V.I. Fire Services. While senators on Tuesday admitted that they had previously harbored similar concerns, many also said they were impressed by Browne's quick on-the-job learning abilities and the relationships he has already formed with the territory's fire chiefs.
"Just because someone is a manager, doesn't mean they can't run the fire department," said Dowe, a former fire chief. "We've had accountants run the department before and they did the job well. And in this case, I think Mr. Browne is eminently qualified for the position."
Dowe's sentiments were echoed by Sen. Ronald E. Russell, who said that Browne's "honesty" and "management style" will allow the agency to get more involved with local public safety issues and initiatives.
While offering his support for the nomination, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson added that Browne should use his accounting experience to balance the agency's budget. "You have to manage your budget to maximize the use of your resources," he said. "And I'm confident that you will be able to do that, and I think that you will make a good manager."
"You're not being hired to find a hose and pull it out of a truck," added Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. "You're being hired to make sure there's enough hoses for the troops who need them."
Department of Labor
Bursting with praise, senators showered Bryan with overwhelming support on Tuesday, saying that the young commissioner-designee has a clear understanding of local labor issues and the dedication needed to "get the job done."
"We saved the best for last," said Sen. Neville James, who added that he was "impressed" with the way Bryan carried himself during a Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting held last month.
"I didn't even need to ask you any questions because you were so good," James said. "And you were real. You were confident and learned, and I wish you luck with the Department of Labor."
While other senators continued to offer Bryan a smorgasbord of accolades and compliments, many also took the time to address some of the challenges facing the department and the territory's labor force.
"One of the biggest issues we're facing now, for example, is Hovensa, who still continues to import workers from the mainland to do projects when there is a high unemployment rate on St. Croix and parts of St. Thomas," Russell explained. "They should be coming to the local workforce, and I'm hopeful that you are the change we need to deal with this situation."
At-Large Sen. Carmen M. Wesselhoft also urged Bryan to increase the department's presence on St. John, whose workforce is steadily increasing. "Everything is booming on our little island -- the labor force is booming, construction is booming, and so there is a need for a permanent place for the department on St. John," she said.
Speaking after his nomination had been approved, Bryan said that he would be, over the next four years, working to fulfill the "dreams" of the new administration and the Senate.
"The governor told me this was going to be fun, and so far, I'm having a great time," Bryan said, smiling amid loud bursts of applause from senators and family members in the audience. "And I hope that all the wishes and dreams of this administration and this body will come true so we can all be proud of our Department of Labor."
All senators were present during Tuesday's session.
The session continues on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.