For much of Gary Molloy’s life, he has been laser focused on education – his own, and others’.
The St. Croix native is a 27-year veteran of the Department of Education, with 22 years of that time spent in administration, including, most recently, as superintendent of schools for the St. Croix district.
That’s why, he admits, he was a little surprised when Gov. Albert Bryan tapped him to be the new administration’s commissioner of Labor.
But then, he says, he thought about it and “I actually saw that it would work … There are certain skill sets that one gains” that transfer readily from one discipline to the other.
It’s not only that a good manager can be effective in disparate worlds, but in the case of Labor and Education, Molloy said there is a lot of overlap in functions. Those include the need to administer a variety of different programs simultaneously, overseeing the administration of federal grants funding specific initiatives, handling labor negotiations, and generally managing a staff.
Besides, he emphasized, he is anxious to be part of Bryan’s plan, announced recently in the State of the Territory address, to develop a “workforce pipeline” with the help of both Education and Labor, to boost job opportunities for Virgin Islands youth.
Molloy spoke with the Source last week, after having spent just eight days as the commissioner-designee. He has not been confirmed yet but, like other of Bryan’s Cabinet appointments, he is on the job.
Has he hit the ground running?
“Skating is more like it,” he laughed.
Molloy said so far he’s been concentrating on in-house, meeting with staff members on St. Thomas and St. Croix, burning the midnight oil reading about programs administered by Labor, and generally “getting a very good sense of how the department operates.”
He described his management style as “hands-on” but said he is definitely not a micro-manager.
There are approximately 120 staff members in the department, he said. Its General Fund budget is about $10 million, but it also administers millions of dollars in federal funds for national programs.
The department is charged with handling a number of divisions all designed to establish and maintain a viable workforce, including Occupational Health and Safety, Labor Relations, Workers’ Compensation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Insurance and Training.
Molloy said he’s having no trouble deciding what aspects of his new position are most important.
“The priorities have been outlined for me by the governor,” he said, adding a quote from Bryan’s address: “We will put our young people to work.”
Bryan said his administration would use Education in tandem with Labor, the University of the Virgin Islands and the Career and Technical Board “to focus on the intersectionality” of education and jobs and create a “workforce pipeline.” He wants to “move toward the goal of producing technically trained workers who are nationally certified.” He also promised to set aside $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds for apprenticeships and National Certification Programs and to “demand” that government contractors use the apprenticeship program “for training young Virgin Islanders in specific trades.”
The governor presented the workforce pipeline as one piece of a multi-pronged strategy to develop more economic opportunity in the territory and improve its overall financial health.
“It all starts with employment,” Molloy said.
A career educator and administrator, Molloy is not a total stranger to politics. He is the son of the late Claude “Tappy” Molloy, a longtime senator. He served for two years as the executive assistant to Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James during the Turnbull administration. In that capacity, he said, he headed the St. Croix office and handled labor relations territory wide.
He’s a product of St. Croix’s Catholic Schools, attended Howard University for one year, but switched to Temple University in Philadelphia and graduated with a double major in mathematics and education.
He worked briefly on the mainland as a management consultant for a business where he said he put his math education to use, and also administrated the company pension plan.
When Hurricane Hugo hit St. Croix in 1989, it drew him back.
“I was lucky to get in two days after the storm hit,” he said, pausing as he tried to answer the question of why he had returned. “I just wanted to be part of the restoration process. At the end of the day, I was home.”
He took a job teaching in the public school system and soon also became a program assistant for territorial teacher training. Within five years, he left the classroom for administration and worked his way up from an assistant principal to principal. He spent several years as principal of Central High School and then was appointed district superintendent.
Meanwhile, he’s kept up his studies.
“I’ve continued with my education to keep me as current as I can,” he said. He’s working on his doctorate at UVI through the Creativity of Leadership, Innovation and Change program.
Molloy is married to educator and established artist Christa-Ann Davis Molloy and they have two teenaged sons.