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Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Oct. 13, 2001 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced the appointment of four new private-sector members to his eight-member Tourism Advisory Council in a release from Government House Friday.
Turnbull's appointees are Lisa Schmidt, Cape Air marketing director; Susan Chandler of the V.I. Charter Yacht League; William Cherubin, LIAT local manager; and Al Franklin of Our Town Frederiksted.
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards chairs the council. The other members are Leona Bryant, former director of tourism under the Economic Development and Agriculture Department; Claire Roker, St. Croix district manager for the congressional delegate's office; James O' Bryan, the governor's assistant for public affairs and policy; and Mario Carroll, V.I. Taxicab Commission executive director.
Although the council has already had one meeting, the private-sector members were not announced until Friday. The governor said in his release that the body had met to discuss the upcoming $6.5 million "Sea to Shining Sea" advertising campaign recently announced by the Tourism Department. He said the council will meet monthly.
The council has been fraught with controversy since its creation earlier this year. In an effort to appease the private-sector tourism interests after he vetoed a semi-autonomous Tourism Authority included in the 2001 Omnibus Bill, Turnbull in April appointed four representatives from the territory's chambers of commerce and hotel associations to represent the private sector on his new Tourism Advisory Committee.
The presidents of the four associations flatly rejected the offer. Wendell Snider, St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association president; John deJongh, St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce president; Carmelo Rivera, St. Croix Chamber of Commerce president; and Richard Doumeng, St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association president, issued a joint press release at the time saying, "Our past experience with tourism advisory committees has not been fruitful or productive. As a consequence we have instructed the executive directors of our four organizations to neither attend nor participate in the Tourism Advisory Committee."
DeJongh said then that a tourism advisory committee has "no teeth." It is "non-committal and a very weak handshake towards a true partnership."
Instead de Jongh said, "I am hopeful that at some point we can get the senators and governor together" to discuss a Tourism Authority. This has not occurred.
Rivera said at the time, "There was an amazing consensus across the board that we couldn't be part of an advisory board. It hasn't worked in the past and it's not going to work now. If we didn't reject it, we would have been giving tacit approval to the idea of an advisory board."
The measure Turnbull vetoed called for the semi-autonomous tourism authority to replace the Tourism Department. The governor's veto drew the ire of not only the private sector, but several senators. Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen vowed to override it, which has not happened.
In Friday's release, the governor quoted Richards as saying that the council members "have an important responsibility to assure that our tourism plans … are maximized and effective for our tourism industry."
Neither Richards nor Turnbull gave any specifics what the council's role will be.

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