In a surprise move Thursday, the V.I. Water and Power Authority board took a vote to approve a contract extension for Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr., but a split between members kept the motion from passing.
The vote was taken in executive session at the end of the board’s monthly meeting on St. Thomas. Reporting out of the session, board member Noel Loftus said four members voted in favor of extending Hodge’s contract, while four voted against.
Voting in favor of the extension, which would have given Hodge four more years at the head of the authority, were members Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, Gerald Groner, Loftus and Juanita Young. Members Devin Carrington, Gustav James and Marvin Pickering – all cabinet members under the current administration that by law sit on the WAPA board because of their position – along with board member Elizabeth Armstrong, who was part of the current administration’s transition team, voted against the extension.
“Director Hodge, I can’t say how much I regret this decision,” Groner, the board president, said after the vote was reported out.
What happens next is not clear but, at this point, Hodge’s contract is up on June 30. He has been at WAPA since his appointment by the board in November 2007. During the eight years, Hodge has pushed for the territory to get off its reliance on oil and has overseen the construction of two solar farms (four megawatts each) and put in place projects that should add six more megawatts on St .Thomas and three more on St. Croix.
During a public meeting in May, Hodge said contracts are being negotiated for the introduction of seven megawatts of wind energy on St. Thomas, while another contract has been signed for seven megawatts of biofuel generation on St. Croix.
“Because the vote was 4-4, that means it is the end of my tenure come June,” Hodge said Thursday after the board meeting. “It was a tough pill to swallow, you know, after all the work that has been put in.”
“When you get these jobs, you put in your heart, your soul, you’re fully engrossed in the job at hand,” Hodge continued. “There’s no way to fully explain it, but you’re fully engrossed. You’re life, your blood, your soul, your heart, everything you do is eat, sleep and breathe the job. You sacrifice your family. You sacrifice everything for the job at hand so when it ends like this, it’s a little tough to digest.”
Hodge said it has always been his dream to come home and work at WAPA and, because of that, he took whatever classes and jobs that he could to make it a reality. WAPA officials said the board can still come back and reconsider the vote, but Hodge said he doesn’t expect it in this case.
“My term is over in this job and I can accept that, even though it is not easy,” he said. “But the next chapter in my life will come and I hope this all works out for the people of the Virgin Islands.”
The vote also comes the day after WAPA announced that it had received an Army Corps of Engineers permit that would push forward its propane conversion project on St. Thomas.
Asked for a comment on the WAPA vote, Government House spokesman Sam Topp said in an email, “The governor has no comment at this time on today’s vote by the WAPA board. I suggest that you contact either the board chair or WAPA’s public information officer for comment.”