The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee approved four nominees to the V.I. Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on Thursday, including former Education Commissioner Noreen Michael, sending all four on to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.
The nine-member board is made up of two administration cabinet members, three private-sector representatives and four public housing residents. It currently has several vacancies.
Along with Michael, the committee approved Daphne Edwards, a long-time resident of Williams Delight Housing Community; George Blackhall, a St. Thomas realtor; and Luis Sylvester, a former special advisor to the governor.
"I would like to remind the senators I am the only nominee who lives in a public housing community," Edwards said during the hearing.
"You get extra points in my book for that," said Sen. Kenneth Gittens in response.
"I would like to see programs for the young and for the elderly," Edwards said, when asked what she would like to see change in the VIHA. “I would even like to see a head nurse in residence in some of the communities for the elderly.”
Edwards talked about the benefits of active resident councils in keeping an eye on and helping to keep young boys and girls engaged in the community.
"In my community, we usually do stuff for honor students and for back-to-school preparation," she said, as an example.
"I will strive to reinforce active tenant councils in each community and continue being vocal in the care and housing of our elderly residents," Edwards said, reading from a prepared statement. "Once our residents and community leaders are involved it is also very important to me that we maintain outreach programs in each community for our youth."
Michael moved to the Virgin Islands at the age of 6 from her native Dominica. She is a graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School and the then-College of the Virgin Islands. She later earned a doctorate in education from the University of Illinois in 1985.
She returned to the Virgin Islands in 1991 and held management positions in the Education Department, culminating in her serving as commissioner of education from 2002 to 2006. She is currently the director of research at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Blackhall holds a bachelor’s of business administration from the Barauch School of Business, City University of New York. He has been CEO/owner of B&W Realty Investment since 2002, with experience in management and real estate on St. Thomas dating back to 1969.
He was on the V.I. Board of Elections from 1980 to 1986 and served in the U.S. Naval Air Reserves from 1960 to 1968.
Sylvester also lives on St. Thomas and is currently with Molina Medicaid Solutions as executive director for the USVI Medicaid Management Information System project. Until earlier this year, he served as housing policy advisor to Gov. John deJongh Jr., a post he held for five and a half years.
Prior to that, Sylvester held staff positions within the V.I. Legislature. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UVI and has taught science at UVI and in the V.I. public schools.
All votes were unanimous and all members were present. Voting in favor of each nominee were Sens. Diane Capehart, Shawn-Michael Malone, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Gittens, Donald Cole and Sammuel Sanes.