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Remembering Pamela Richards: A Legacy of Service and Dedication

Pamela Richards delivers the keynote address at a women’s march on St. John in 2019. (Source photo by Amy Hope Roberts)

A culture bearer in every sense of the word, former Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards made it her mission to spread awareness of and appreciation for the Virgin Islands, its people, and traditions not only locally, but worldwide. From her impactful tenure as executive director of the Virgin Islands Legislature to her work, most recently, as owner of Bookstore 340 in Crown Bay, Richards was also remembered upon her passing last Thursday at the age of 65 for her tireless advocacy and service.

In a statement Friday, Delegate Stacey Plaskett reflected on Richards’ multifaceted role in the community.

“Pam was the epitome of a Virgin Islander, having spent portions of her life on each island. She filled many roles in our community and faithfully served on numerous boards and organizations. Her presence in our community will be missed. I am absolutely heartbroken about Pam’s passing. I can’t say how much I will miss her sarcastic humor, our shared stories of our Virgin Islands historical tradition, culture, and people,” the delegate said.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. further spoke about Richards’ community involvement.

“She led as the chairperson of the Federation of St. Croix Taxi Associations and the Virgin Islands Port Authority, showing her dedication to improving our transportation systems. Pam’s work extended to many boards, including the Agriculture and Food Fair of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Commission on Judicial Conduct, United Way of St. Croix, St. George Village Botanical Garden, and Our Town Frederiksted, Inc., to name a few. As president of the St. John Historical Society, she advocated and worked tirelessly to ensure our rich history was preserved for future generations,” he wrote, adding that Richards’ legacy was one of service, love and dedication to the territory.

And she was a brilliant mind, who worked exceptionally hard on behalf of the community, Senate Majority Leader Kenneth L. Gittens added Friday.

“I was so saddened to learn of her passing,” Gittens said. “I would like to extend my condolences to her family and many friends. She is already deeply missed.”

Gittens noted that Richards worked as the executive director of the 29th Legislature. He was confident in her skills and abilities to manage so he brought her back in that same capacity when he served as president in the beginning of the 33rd Legislature.

“I knew at that time that reforms were needed within the institution and had no doubt that Pam was going to work hard to get the job done,” he said. “She helped implement new policies and was a very strong leader and advocate for our employees.”

Richards was extremely dedicated to the U.S. Virgin Islands. She grew up understanding the importance of public service, Gittens said.

“Her father, Arthur A. Richards, was a giant in our community and contributed tremendously to the development of our territory. However, Pam was never in his shadow. She shone in her own light and excelled in all she did: leading the Tourism Department as commissioner, owning her boutique in Frederiksted, serving as chairwoman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, organizing the St. Croix Agriculture Fair, and more. You could always count on her good ideas and commitment to bettering these islands. Pamela Richards will be sorely missed,” Gittens said.

Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach shared his sentiments, highlighting their lifelong friendship and Richards’ numerous contributions. “I join a deeply saddened Virgin Islands community in extending condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Pamela C. Richards Samuel. Pamela was my trusted friend whom I admired and respected for her dynamic, visionary, and creative leadership. We both attended the College of the Virgin Islands under the presidency of her father, the late Arthur A. Richards,” he said.

Roach added, “Having lived on all three islands, in essence, Pamela was a proud Virgin Islander, a dedicated public servant, and an innovative entrepreneur. She holds the distinction as the first vice-president and chair of the Caribbean Tourism Association and served as the executive director of the Democratic Party, most recently as the St. John District Chair. We are grateful for her service and will honor her memory. May she now rest in peace and glory.”

Senate President Novelle Francis extended his heartfelt condolences, also emphasizing Richards’ transformative impact on the Legislature. “It is easy to take for granted the significance of being surrounded by a compassionate, diligent, and well-read leader and legend like Pam Richards. As the executive director of the 29th and 33rd Legislatures, Pam effected change to make the first branch of government professional, transparent, and accountable. She was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and have her shoulders pressed to the plowshare to transform our beloved islands into the mecca of paradise we can all be proud of,” Francis said.

Francis also highlighted Richards’ leadership during the COVID pandemic and her commitment to local culture. “Pam’s leadership helped to ensure continuity of operations at the Legislature and supported our mission to craft a beacon of hope, responsiveness, and resilience. Pam was an entrepreneur, a dedicated and great advocate for local literature, culture, arts, and crafts. It is my hope that her illustrious government service, as well as her Bookstore 340, will stand as a testament to an exceptional record of public service and a life well-lived.”

The Caribbean Tourism Organization also mourned Richards’ passing, acknowledging her significant contributions as former chairman. CTO Chair Kenneth Bryan noted, “The U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean have lost a tireless leader who championed the cause of the Virgin Islands and the broader Caribbean tourism industry. She was an exemplar when it came to service, and her passion, visionary leadership, and unwavering commitment have left an indelible mark on the region.”

Richards’ tenure as CTO chairman from 2004 to 2006 saw numerous initiatives to strengthen Caribbean tourism, including improving tourism data collection, expanding training and development, and promoting sustainable development.

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