April 28, 2005 St. John Administrator Julien Harley is one busy man. You might run into him at the Post Office, where he stops to pick up the mail, or at just about every community meeting held on St. John or, of course, at his office in the Battery.
He keeps tabs on the myriad problems facing this rapidly growing community.
"St. John needs a planner, a real certified planner," Harley said. He's asked for one for years, but to no avail. Meanwhile, St. John's infrastructure improvements are lagging far behind development.
Harley cited traffic and parking as the most pressing problems, but he said agencies like the V.I. Water and Power Authority also need to plan for future growth. And he said discussions continue with the National Park Service to exchange or lease park land for a much-needed centralized public school. The park has a list of offshore cays it would like in return for land at Catherineberg, Harley said.
The V.I. National Park is good for St. John, he said. "People come to St. John and everybody makes money," he said.
As administrator, Harley has no real authority. Instead, he works to persuade people to do what he sees as best for St. John. With some form of municipal government, the person who headed government activities on St. John would have power. This would work better than the current system because the government head would have his or her finger on the pulse of St. John's needs, Harley said.
"We need to be able to react," he said.
Harley admitted he walks a fine line between the white and black community. He said that some black people complain he likes white people better, but some white people call him a racist.
"I don't look at black or white. I look at the problem, the concern," he said.
He also pointed out that the growing number of white children born to St. John-based parents hold as much right to be called St. Johnians as do the black children of St. John parents. "We have to start grasping that," he said.
Harley's name occasionally surfaces when people talk about who will replace Gov. Charles Turnbull. He said that while he's toyed with the idea, he knows he wouldn't be a popular choice because he'd want to revamp the entire government system. Instead, he said he prefers to do his best for St. John.
He said he works from his heart, personalizing the problem or situation to see how he can make St. John better for his kids.
Harley, 55, was born on St. Thomas because St. John has no hospital. He grew up on St. John, making the ferry trip across Pillsbury Sound to St. Thomas to attend Charlotte Amalie High School. After graduation in 1967, he worked for the Public Works Department for a short while before heading off to Queens, New York, to attend Voorhees Technical Institute and hold a part-time job with United Parcel Service.
He was done with school and working full-time for UPS when he decided to go home for vacation. He never went back. He returned to Public Works as a mechanic until he joined the Fire Department in 1974, rising through the ranks until he retired as deputy chief in 1995. After a three-year stint running the Legislature in St. John, he was named to the administrator's post in 1999 by Turnbull.
Harley doesn't expect to serve in this capacity when Turnbull's second term runs out in 2007. "I'd prefer to give someone else a chance," he said.
Harley is a big family man. Married 23 years to the former Pat Ebbesen, the two met on St. Croix when he was playing baseball and she was playing tennis.
They have three children. Julice, now 22 and a Florida International University graduate, works for WAPA on St. Thomas. Their son Jamien is 20, and daughter Jurel, 16, is in the 11th grade at Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas. Harley also has a son from a previous relationship, Julien Harley Jr., 31.
Jamien, who suffers from cerebral palsy and other disorders, is profoundly handicapped, but the Harleys elected to keep him at home rather than institutionalize him.
When Harley's not busy with family activities or on the job, he serves as chairman of the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee and on the Friends of the National Park advisory committee. And he plays on the 50 Plus Hurricanes baseball team and the Ambassadors softball team.
He also keeps in shape by swimming and walking.
"About three miles," he said, ticking off a route in the Maho Bay area.
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