Jan. 5, 2006 Although Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and 25th Senate President David Jones had their differences mainly over government budget issues, Turnbull announced Wednesday that he has hired Jones as a special assistant.
Turnbull said in a release, "I am pleased to have someone with Senator Jones' knowledge and ability working on my staff. He comes with years of experience in labor and management and the willingness and ability to make positive things happen."
Jones, a fellow Democrat, will work on Government Employees Retirement System reform, specifically the liability issue and pension reform, Turnbull said. The Senate is meeting Jan. 11 in Committee of the Whole to discuss these issues. Jones will serve as liaison to the 26th Legislature.
His other duties will include working with the Economic Development Authority to establish an Economic Development Fund and creating an Internet "info-structure" initiative for the government.
Turnbull and Jones had issues in 2004. The governor vetoed the FY 2004 budget in its entirety in December 2003, earning the ire of Jones and his Democratic colleagues. "It's unfortunate the governor took the path of confrontation," Jones said at the time. "Are you telling me that the governor couldn't exercise his line-item veto power, but instead took the entire package? This is a total disrespect for the Legislature and for the people of the Virgin Islands."
The territory operated on the FY 2003 budget through 2004, until a supplemental budget was submitted by Turnbull, amended by the Legislature, line-item vetoed by Turnbull, and sent back to the Legislature. The $567.5 million budget finally arrived on Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's desk the day after the 2004 general elections.
In his press release, Turnbull concluded his remarks about Jones: "The government and the people of the Virgin Islands are fortunate to have his expertise available to us."
Turnbull has at least three other special assistants: Keith Richards, capital projects; George Goodwin, public policy; and Gloria Canegata-Waterman. According to a listing in the Dec. 15 Daily News, all three make $80,000 annually. The Source could not reach Jones at his office at St. Croix Government House Thursday. James O 'Bryan, the governor's spokesman, said Jones has been at his new post about a week.
Jones served five terms in the V. I. Senate. He headed the 10-member Democratic party majority in the 25th Legislature and was minority leader of the 24th Legislature, but suffered a trouncing in the 2004 Democratic primary.
Jones 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. He graduated from Mercy College in New York in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in history and political science.
Anyone who has followed Jones' political career would remember the proposed Beal Aerospace land swap in 1999, a proposal which both Jones and Turnbull supported. An avid proponent of outside investment, Jones was at the forefront of the failed proposal, 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.
Jones also was a solid supporter of Southern Energy's plan to purchase part of the V.I. Water and Power Authority, which, after a long battle, failed in the 23rd Legislature.
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