Jan. 2, 2007 — Residents of St. Croix flocked to Freedom City, Frederiksted, Tuesday to hear and welcome Gov. John deJongh and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, one day after their inauguration to the highest offices in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We are here to rejoice and celebrate our newly inaugurated governor and lieutenant governor," said former Labor Commissioner Carmelo Rivera. "This is a festive and joyous day for us."
Rivera, a Frederiksted native, was the first of several speakers to restate deJongh's promise to the people of St. Croix. "They have given us their word, St. Croix will be a top priority. Frederiksted can once again be the center of cultural and economic life."
"The best is here and better is yet to come," Genelle R. Francis said as she introduced her father, the new lieutenant governor.
"I am a plainspoken man of the people, and I will remain a plainspoken man," Francis told the attentive crowd. Francis talked about growing up in the housing communities, of his father dying when he was four and of the teachings of his mother, who instilled in him love and respect for his community. He said he is not "a man to sit behind a desk" and will strive to build a "true community," where children, the elderly and the homeless receive adequate care. Francis emphasized that residents are entitled to good service from government. He spoke about encouraging development on St. Croix and erasing the "division and dissention" among the islands. "Each island has its own special needs," he said.
The new governor was proudly introduced by Albert Bryan Jr., president of Generation Now, a St. Croix-based voter empowerment group. "The promise of 'together' has delivered us to this moment," Bryan said. He urged the electorate to support the new administration. "Be fair, give him trust, be loyal and open minded" and "squash the negativity that too often rears its ugly head," said Bryan.
"You are my employers, the source of all [that] government is and can be," deJongh said in his first address to the residents of St. Croix. Saying his statement are "not just rhetoric," deJongh promised a "competent and transparent government" and "basics before frills." He spoke about improving 911 services, having safe communities, addressing poverty, education, the "brain drain" and the high cost of electricity, while urging residents to get involved in government. "Don't sit on the sidelines; be participants not just facilitators for others," he said.
DeJongh admitted that St. Croix has not always received its fair share of attention and that "special interests have hindered development." "I will not shy away from the challenges of each island; one size does not fit all," he said.
The event was held on the bandstand in historic Buddhoe Park, where in 1848 enslaved Africans demanded their freedom from the Danish government. There, deJongh told the people of St. Croix what they were waiting to hear; that he would put the economic growth of the island of the front burner.
As the military parade, which preceded the speeches, wound down King Street with members of the V. I. National Guard, Junior ROTC, school groups and community organizations, deJongh and Francis saluted those marching. As they marched, many of the youngsters in the parade waved American and V.I. flags.
In front of the bandstand, the American and V.I. flag flew at half-mast in honor of former President Gerald Ford, whose funeral was also Tuesday.
The bandstand, which was extended to accommodate dignitaries, was replete with familiar faces that have played significant parts in the island's history. Among those present were former Gov. Juan Francisco Luis, former Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James III, Delegate Donna M. Christensen, former Delegate Ron deLugo, WAPA Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega, Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center CEO Gregory Calliste and several senators.
Clarence "Cherra" Heyliger served as master of ceremonies, introducing the speakers and interspersing his comments with historical facts concerning Frederiksted and St. Croix.
In stark contrast to former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's 2003 second-term inauguration, there was but one lone protester standing on the outskirts of the crowd. The protester was carrying a handmade sign decrying raises for senators, the governor and lieutenant governor, which were recently signed into law. The 2003 protest saw more than 300 people protesting the then proposed legislation, which substantially increased the governor's, lieutenant governor's and senators' salaries. Bowing to overwhelming criticism, Turnbull vetoed the 2003 pay raises two day later.
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