The U.S. Department of Interior has hired former a V.I. senator and 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, Basil Ottley Jr., to be its new policy director in Washington, D.C., according to the Department of the Interior.
He began his first day as policy director on Monday.
“I am extremely pleased to have Basil Ottley join our team as policy director,” Assistant Interior Department Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina said in a statement Monday. “Basil has a wealth of policy experience at the federal and territorial levels of government," she said.
"While he has a strong background of service to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, he also understands the complexities of issues that are facing the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states. It strengthens OIA to have a leadership team that reflects the diversity of the regions that fall under our jurisdiction,” Kia’aina said.
As policy director, Ottley will be coordinating OIA and federal policies for the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association.
Together with OIA’s budget and technical assistance directors, they are responsible for a budget of over $650 million dollars for the insular areas.
During his previous tenure at the Office of Insular Affairs, Ottley was instrumental in linking OIA’s initiatives to address unsustainable energy cost in the insular areas with the U.S. Department of Energy’s international partnership, Energy Development in Island Nations, according to the Office of Insular Affairs.
He also served as a special advisor to the U.S. Department of State on issues involving Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that were before the United Nations.
Ottley joined the Office of Insular Affairs in 2008 as the Virgin Islands desk officer and later accepted the assignment of the Virgin Islands Field Representative in 2010 when Interior decided to reopen a field office in the territory.
Ottley earned a master’s degree in public policy with a specialization in international development from the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University and a bachelor of arts in mathematics from the University of the Virgin Islands.
He worked for several years for a Fortune 500 company then returned to the territory in 2003, becoming Sen. Louis P. Hill’s chief of staff.
In 2004 Ottley first tried his hand at elective politics, challenging Donna M. Christensen in the Democratic Party primary for delegate to Congress. In 2014, he joined Christensen’s ticket in an unsuccessful bid for governor and lieutenant governor.
Ottley then successfully ran for a seat in the 27th Legislature in 2006. When he joined the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs in 2008 as the V.I. desk officer, he was the first Virgin Islander to hold the post.
Ottley identifies his authorship of Act 7027, which required the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research to develop an economic self-sufficiency standard (living wage), as his most significant accomplishment as a senator. He believes the act was firmly rooted in the principle that the wages paid for an honest day’s work should amount to enough for an individual to live a decent and sustainable existence without government assistance or the charity of others.
He was born on Puerto Rico, but he was raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands where his maternal and paternal families have resided for generations. Ottley grew up in the historic neighborhood of Savan on St. Thomas, attended and completed the Virgin Islands Montessori School and graduated from Antilles High School. He is married to the former Kirsten Abrahams of St. Croix and they have two daughters, Serafina and Zindzhi.