It’s time for everyone in District Three to get fair representation, said first-time political candidate Kevin “OJ” Smith at his campaign launch with the National Democratic Party Saturday evening in Sea Cows Bay.
“Since when did it become our right to look out for some of our people and not for others?” asked Mr. Smith, while those under the tent cheered. He said he plans to be a “comprehensive” representative of the district, getting input from residents throughout the district and establishing committees where necessary.
The territory has recently become beholden to the representatives it elects, serving the representatives rather than being served by them, said Mr. Smith, who served as postmaster general from 2005 until May of this year.
“We can no longer afford to grovel and beg for work,” he said.
Mr. Smith outlined several ways he would improve the district if elected, including building a public playground for the area, creating neighbourhood watch groups and installing more lighting to make the district safer.
“Better lighting is a basic essential,” Mr. Smith said. He reminded the crowd about Alwon Smith, the Sea Cows Bay man who was robbed in his home last month. The candidate said better lighting in the neighbourhood could have prevented the attack, and he praised the district’s current representative, Julian Fraser, for moving to have lights installed near the victim’s home. But he also called Mr. Fraser’s action “retroactive” leadership.
And, while Mr. Smith praised Mr. Fraser for serving his people as a representative, he claimed that Mr. Fraser has not spent enough time on priority issues. While residents of the Third District may have water, he said, many neighbours in other districts, including children at the schools and the ailing in Peebles Hospital, go without.
Mr. Smith said that these and other issues, such as the Biwater contract and government’s choice of project spending, should be publicly debated.
“People need to hear lively debate about the issues,” Mr. Smith said, adding that he invites Mr. Fraser to such a debate.
The candidate said he would advocate for several changes territory-wide, including a move to using more solar energy, a partnership with foreign-based companies to help train Virgin Islanders for competitive jobs in the territory, and the creation of a strategic infrastructure plan.
Such a plan is important, he said, because “it becomes an agreement between the people and their representative,” giving voters a kind of progress report on how the legislator is doing.
Mr. Smith also wants to implement a programme whereby the elderly and youths can help each other, a move he said will help bridge the generation gap. He also said he wants to see the territory’s “special needs” students integrated into the public school system.
While advocating for a better national identification system, Mr. Smith called for a system in which all residents would have a photo ID card and a fingerprint record — ideas he said would allow for better law enforcement.
“We need to know exactly who is living in our country,” Mr. Smith said.
He was praised by other party members at the launch as “vibrant,” and “one of the best things to happen to the NDP.”
The 39-year-old financial analyst began his work life as a bank teller, shortly after graduating from BVI High School, said Nixia Forbes-Titley, who gave Mr. Smith’s biography and introduction at the launch. Mr. Smith joined the United States Army in 1989 and served until 1992. He eventually earned a business administration degree with a concentration in finance from the University of the Virgin Islands.
The married father of two has also been an assistant pastor at the New Life Baptist Church, although he has since “returned to his roots at the Anglican Church,” Ms. Forbes-Titley said, adding that he continues to minister to youth at different church and school events in the territory.