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Cruz Bay
Sunday, December 3, 2023


The sartorially splendid Sen. David Jones, decked out in a three-piece navy blue checked suit complemented by a burnt orange silk handkerchief, glances up over the stacks of books crowding his desk, "Welcome to my room with a view."
It's a very tiny room with a view, situated on the outside at the rear of the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall. But it does, indeed, have a pleasant view of the ships in the harbor.
Jones takes it all in stride. Sen. Celestino A. White Sr., Jones says, "told me I had the 'best of the worst.'"
But the fourth-term senator, who is the 24th Legislature's minority leader, was taking nothing in stride at a press conference earlier in the day.
"I think a taxpayers' lawsuit is in order at this time," he said that morning, in reference to the minority senators' allotments. "We cannot bring a suit, but we can certainly join any taxpayers, because they are not getting the representation they deserve."
"This continues to plague us," Jones continued. "Since the minority's first press meeting in January, we still have not been able to convene a meeting with the Senate president (about the allotments), so we have given up, and we will proceed with what we have."
All minority senators are rankled at the disparity between the minority senators' $100,000 allotments to run their offices, and those of the majority, which have been reported to be as much as three or four times that amount.
But, back to Wednesday afternoon and the classic question: "How did you get involved in politics?"
This brings a smile, a shy smile, actually. The senator, who is normally aggressive on the Senate floor, is remarkably reserved in person. "I guess it started early," Jones says, "My mother said I told her when I was about five years old that I wanted to be great when I grew up. Do great things," he laughs. "Now, the greatest thing I can do is to serve."
The path he took to politics had lots of twists and turns. Did he want to be an actor at one time? "It's interesting you should ask that," he says, "Yes. I took drama in high school and I was in the drama club in college — I did a lot of Shakespeare," a talent which has served him well on the Senate floor. "I wanted to be an actor, and then I wanted to be a lawyer, an international lawyer," he says.
Jones graduated from Mercy College in New York with a B.A. in history and political science. He was very active in the church in New York, perhaps motivated by his eighth-grade desire to be a priest. "I honed by skills at the New York church by teaching community involvement."
All along Jones had been set on studying law, but when he ran into problems when the University of the West Indies School of Law in Barbados, which wouldn't accept a Dominica-born Virgin Islander, his career took another turn.
He spent 13 years teaching in the St. Croix school system, during which time he became politically active in the teachers union and numerous educational and labor boards and commissions. He founded the Young People's Union and organized the Young Democrats of St. Croix. Before coming to the Senate, he served for three years as special assistant to the Commissioner of Labor.
Jones remembers going to the downtown St. Croix Market to listen to politicians when he was "about 11 or 12 years old. I liked to hang out there," he says. "That was in '66, I remember listening to Ron de Lugo when he was first running for the Senate and old pros like David Canegata Sr. I learned a lot."
A couple items on Jones' crowded desk demand attention. One is a squat, black, sharply pleated umbrella and the other is an orange, cardboard rocket. Jones picks up the umbrella, "I need this if I have to go outside for anything and it's raining, even to the bathroom." He firmly deposits the umbrella back in its prominent desk place.
Anyone who has followed Jones' political career would recognize the rocket as a souvenir of the failed Beal Aerospace land swap, the "Beal deal," which passed the Legislature, but failed in court when Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen successfully sued the V.I. government, claiming it had no legal right to sell the land.
An avid proponent of outside investment, Jones was at the forefront of the Beal project. He also was a solid supporter of Southern Energy's plan to purchase part of the Water and Power Authority and the Prosser land swap, both of which failed in the 23rd Legislature.
Jones, however, remains undeterred. "You should see our new plans," he says. These are among initiatives he had mentioned at the press conference earlier in the day.
He presents a brightly colored prospectus from one of the stacks of documents on his desk. It's from Catske Watercraft. "This could be a $264 million investment for St. Croix." The company builds everything from jet skis to mega-yachts. "When I was in D.C., a contact in Atlanta told me about them, so I flew to Atlanta to talk to them. They'll be coming down in a few weeks for further talks," Jones says, looking quite pleased.
Jones also adds that the expenses he turned in for the Washington inaugural trip were less than he was given up front. The senators' expenses for that trip have been a sore subject for the press which has been unable to get most of the receipts. Jones' were published earlier this month.
And that isn't all. He pulls out another prospectus from Caribbean Airline Acquisitions, operators of Sun Airlines Charters. "They want to make St. Croix their hub," he says. These two projects are in addition to plans for cruise ship home-porting which he has been promoting for some time, and plans for a major hotel and convention center to tie in with the airline hub.
Jones also has two important pieces of legislation in the hopper. Since his first term in 1994, he has been trying to get legislation enacted to establish education governance by the Board of Education, instead of the Department of Education. Jones has been chairman of the St. Croix District Board of Education. Several public hearings on the legislation have been held in the past few weeks. "It's legislation I drafted and gave to the board to study," he says.
Another pet project of Jones is bring about another constitutional convention, a bill which failed in the 23rd Legislature. "It's coming up again," Jones says. He doesn't endorse the nine-member Legislature. "We need further study of legislative reform," he maintains. Jones says the convention would be the appropriate forum.
On a lighter note, Jones admits he will participate in a coming karaoke performance. What will he sing? He won't say, "I think the senators should choreograph something themselves." Sen. Emmett Hansen II is conducting a fund-raiser for Central High School March 31 at St. Croix's Wreck Bar, and he has managed to enlist at least half the Senate, regardless of affiliation. Hansen hopes to raise $10,000 for school textbooks and other supplies.
Jones moved to St. Croix from Dominica with his mother, Jean Maynard Dennis, when he was very young. He has a 13-year-old son, David Alexander Jones.
"My mother worked two jobs to keep me in private Catholic schools, " he says. "She was the one who taught me about dressing. She made all my clothes, so I guess you could say I started wearing designer clothes at an early age," says the spiffily dressed Senator, with an ear cocked to the legislative session being broadcast from upstairs. Something gets his attention, "Oops, I've got to go." He pauses in front of a large, framed picture of himself clad in a 1994 campaign T-shirt and topped with a dapper white straw hat.
"Stay right there," a reporter says. "We've got our picture."

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