The V.I. Senate approved 22 of Gov. Albert Bryan’s nominations for Executive Branch positions in the first nine hours of Tuesday’s legislative session. The nominations included directors, judges, commissioners and a board member.
Twelve of the nominees were female. Noting this fact, Sen. Donna A. Frett-Gregory said “when women lead, the world changes.” Three women judges were approved for V.I. Superior Court – Kathleen Mackay, Jessica Gallivan, and Debra Watlington. Two women were approved as commissioners – Racquel Berry-Benjamin as commissioner of the Department of Education and Justa Encarnacion as commissioner of the Department of Health.
Women approved for directorships were Jenifer O’Neal as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Dayna Clendinen as director of the Division of Personnel, Barbara Jackson McIntosh as director of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and Wynnie Testamark as director of the Bureau of Corrections.
Denise George-Counts was approved as the V.I. attorney general at the Department of Justice. Leona Smith was approved as a member of the Port Authority Governing Board.
The names will be forwarded to the governor for swearing in. In the Senate the women received nary a dissent vote. None of the men met unanimous votes.
Douglas Brady’s nomination as a Superior Court judge barely squeaked through on an eight to six vote. Several senators said they had received negative comments from residents who were concerned about Brady’s action or inaction on the case before him in which the Government Employees’ Retirement System had a stake.
The constituents expressed such negative assessments of Brady that one senator, Novelle Francis, said he might be sacrificing his career at the Senate by approving the nomination. However, because he had such respect for Brady, he was going to vote for the nomination.
Voting nay on Brady’s nomination were Sens. Alicia Barnes, Oakland Benta, Steven Payne, Dwayne DeGraff, Marvin Blyden, and Kenneth Gittens. Voting yes were Sens. Allison DeGazon, Francis, Frett-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge, Myron Jackson, Javan James, Janelle Sarauw, and Athneil Thomas.
Sen. Kurt Vialet was absent from the session.
Frett-Gregory said approving good judges was important, “as they will impact the lives of Virgin Islanders for generations to come.”
Senate President Gittens quoted the Greek philosopher Socrates as saying, “Four characteristics to being a judge are to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.”
Seven men were approved as commissioners – Kirk Callwood as commissioner of the Department of Finance, Nelson Petty, Jr. as commissioner of the Department of Public Works, Anthony Thomas as commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement, Joseph B. Boschulte as the commissioner of the Department of Tourism, Positive T.A. Nelson as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Gary Molloy as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Jean-Pierre Oriol as commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.
Joel Lee was approved as director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Daryl George as director of the V.I. Fire Service.
In a release to the press after the meeting, Gov. Bryan said, “Today was a good day for the Bryan-Roach administration and the people of the Virgin Islands of the United States. We are grateful to the members of the 33rd Legislature for their vote of confidence and confirmation of each of the nominees, and look forward to the favorable consideration of the Cabinet members still awaiting action by the body.”
The session, run by Gittens, started with senators outlining their performance during the first 100 days in office. Gittens said it was clear that the 33rd Legislature has been busy and productive. He pointed out that the legislature convened 30 committee hearings, proposed 400 pieces of legislation and had begun to address problems affecting mental health, hurricane recovery, crime, and the tourism industry.
The session will reconvene Wednesday morning. Bills concerning taxi medallions, medical marijuana regulations extension, GERS and authorization for the governor to obtain $80 million to pay service providers will be considered.