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Sunday, September 25, 2022
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Interior Department to Open V.I. Office

After a hiatus of 15 years, the U.S. Interior Department’s Insular Affairs Office will reopen its V.I. field office. Former Sen. Basil Ottley, who served as V.I. desk officer at the Interior Department’s Washington, D.C. office since 2008, will return home to open and staff the office.
“Basil is a valuable member of the Insular Affairs staff. He brings a real competency, depth of knowledge and strong capacity to get things done. I will miss having him in my Washington office but am confident he will better serve our department as field representative,” Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta said in a press release.
Ottley could not be reached for further comment because he was out of the office for the day.
Babauta expects the office to open in early summer. Rebecca E. Zepeda, the policy advisor in Babauta’s office, said that the details haven’t been worked out, but the office is looking for space at the Federal Building on St. Thomas.
Ottley’s initial responsibility will be to lend greater support to the Energy Development in Island Nations initiative, Babauta said. This initiative is the result of a memorandum of understanding that Babauta signed with the U.S. Energy Department and the local government. Ottley will also support existing Insular Affairs programs and new initiatives that are being considered with other federal agencies.
“Basil will continue to be the primary lead on all Virgin Islands issues,” Babauta said.
The office’s responsibilities cover “anything and everything,” Zepeda said.
They include V.I. national parks, issues surrounding the proposed V.I. Constitution, coral reefs, land issues, and the building of the school on National Park Service land on St. John, Zepeda said.
Babauta appointed Krystina Borja, currently the program analyst at the Insular Affairs Office, to be the primary V.I. contact in Washington.
“I am confident the re-establishment of the V.I. field office and this reshuffling will provide for a more comprehensive, efficient and targeted handling of V.I. issues,” Babauta said.
Both Delegate Donna M. Christensen and Gov. John deJongh Jr. indicated they were pleased that V.I. office would reopen.
“The re-opening of this office will be of tremendous help as we continue to develop the working relationship between the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Basil Ottley has done a tremendous job on behalf of the territory while working in Washington," the governor said.
According to Christensen, the Interior Department’s decision to reopen the field office means more interaction with the people on the many programs and services that are provided.
“I am sure that Basil Ottley will bring the energy and initiative necessary to making the office successful,” she said.

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