During a time when the civil service is launching a major reform initiative, there is much to learn from the life of Elton Georges, who served the territory selflessly throughout a career that included more than three decades as deputy governor.
Over the course of his professional life, Mr. Georges, whose death last week was a major loss to the Virgin Islands, waged a tireless struggle for justice, good governance, transparency and institutional improvements designed to make the territory a better place.
Even when it risked putting him at odds with powerful political leaders, he vocally advocated for badly needed measures like a human rights commission, a public register of legislators’ interests, freedom-of-information legislation, and many others.
When he criticised, however, he made every effort to do so fairly and to suggest alternative solutions.
He also led by example. This newspaper’s reporters, for instance, could call him at any hour with questions about his own portfolio, VI history or most any other topic. If he knew the answers, which he usually did, he was always happy to oblige.
His accomplishments were many. As a young teacher, he guided several of today’s most senior leaders. As the longest-serving deputy governor, he oversaw the rapid expansion of the public service as financial services and tourism brought unprecedented prosperity to the territory.
As the territory’s first complaints commissioner, he broke new ground by conducting intensive investigations that exposed injustice and shed light on systemic failings within government.
His work was not easy, and he sometimes complained that identifying serious problems and proposing reasonable solutions often did not lead to any real change. But he never gave up.
Outside of work, he was no less community minded: He routinely visited the sick and elderly and volunteered for various causes including Rotary, the BVI Diabetes Association and others.
He also continued to advocate for a better territory up until the end. When premature reports of his death circulated, he took the opportunity to release a statement encouraging public officers.
“I do get a chance to hear of the happenings of our community, and, if I may, I would like to say to the men and women serving in our public service that you must be ones to help our territory move out of our current state into an arena that spurs on growth, opportunities for Virgin Islanders, and services that treat one and all with dignity and respect,” he wrote.
This message is powerful indeed coming from someone who practised what he preached throughout his life.
Public officers — and all other Virgin Islands residents, for that matter — would do well to follow his example.