May 31, 2003 Although it was his moment to shine, former Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo used Friday's dedication of the St. Thomas federal courthouse in his honor to cast the spotlight on his fellow V.I. leaders, asking them not to let their zeal turn rivals into enemies.
He also praised today's crop of senators, government executives and judges, saying their brisk interactions over the controversies of the day represent self-government at its best.
"Don't let personalities get in the way of your political battles," de Lugo said. "Your opponent could very well be right, and you might very well end up being friends with great admiration for the very person that you have battled so hard."
De Lugo made his remarks at a ceremony naming the federal courthouse the Ron de Lugo Federal Building, where close to 150 people, many of them government leaders from current and past administrations, gathered under ceremonial tents on the lawn of the waterfront courthouse to witness the unveiling of a dedication plaque bearing the former delegate's name and the dates of his service in Congress.
The ceremony was carried out under tight security by U.S. marshals and enforcement officers from the U.S. General Services Administration and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
Built in 1977, while de Lugo was serving in Washington, the federal building was never given a name. The current delegate, Donna M. Christensen, said many federal buildings and post offices come into existence nameless, only to be named later.
De Lugo said at the time it was built, his only concern was that local contractors be given a chance to share in the economic benefits of the new construction project. "It was the beginning of a change in a federal attitude. Before that many decisions were made off-island with very little local input," he said after the Friday ceremony.
During the ceremony he spoke with pride about his work in Congress and how with the help of the Virgin Islands Democratic Party and his congressional staff, the territory gained a stronger voice in its destiny. "I only wish all of you could have been right at my elbow to have witnessed it, to have known about it, to have been there and to have helped me as we won respect for these territories, for the people of the Virgin Islands," he said.
Although de Lugo retired to Virginia after leaving public office in 1995, he came back to the home he had known since his toddling years to celebrate V.I. Carnival in April. Instead of going back to Virginia, he said he stayed in the territory and took in some current affairs.
And while some may see developments over property taxes, sewer contracts, fiscal deficits and coastal zone construction as signs of turbulent times, de Lugo told his audience he found it all refreshing. "The executive and the Legislature, they're not supposed to be hugging up and kissing up each other. They balance each other, and the same goes for the judiciary. And that's what we have going on right now," he said.
"And this challenge that we have is helping to produce a better Legislature, a better executive and a better judiciary than we have seen in a long, long time."
De Lugo praised Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for demonstrating leadership by calling the recent special session over proposed redevelopment at Yacht Haven. The former delegate also praised the 25th Legislature and District Judge Thomas K. Moore for enforcing checks and balances over the V.I. government.
But despite his lengthy remarks, most of the two-hour ceremony was given over to those who offered words of praise for de Lugo and the building being named in his honor.
Christensen recalled her long association with her predecessor, from her childhood on St. Croix. "It's not simply for the length of his tenure and service," she said, "but more significantly it is because Ron deserves this honor we are bestowing on him, for the quality and the excellence of that service."
Christensen was joined by Turnbull, Sen. Lorraine Berry and congressional counsel Brian Modeste, who has served under both de Lugo and Christensen. Steve Ruggiero, deputy regional administrator for the General Services Administration, brought greetings on behalf of President Bush.
Turnbull called de Lugo "a political institution of his own."
"Your distinguished career in public service is being memorialized in this noteworthy and substantial way," he said. "Speakers before me have traced your many accomplishments in some detail. Historians and biographers of the future will write about you. You will never be forgotten in Virgin Islands history," Turnbull said.
Ruggiero explained the role of the GSA as the property manager for the U.S. government and told the audience that in spite of its diverse portfolio of public buildings, the St. Thomas federal courthouse holds a place of great esteem.
"This building has a very unique place in our inventory and in our institutional culture," he said. "When I became commissioner a couple of years ago, I was puzzled by why the Northeast region of GSA encompassed the Caribbean. Standing here today, looking out at the beautiful harbor, I finally understand."
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.