Mark Vanterpool announced his retirement from his 20-year career in politics on Tuesday, just eight days after winning the Fourth District seat for the National Democratic Party.
Now a by-election must be held within two months, but in no fewer than 21 days, according to Colene Penn, communications officer for the Governor’s Group.
Because the NDP suffered a decisive loss to the Virgin Islands Party in the general election on Feb. 25, Mr. Vanterpool was relegated to the opposition.
The former two-term communications and works minister said Tuesday that he decided to step down for “personal reasons,” but he didn’t elaborate.
“I sincerely regret the disappointment and inconvenience that this will cause,” he wrote.
Mr. Vanterpool was first elected to the legislature in 1999, and served in government for four terms.
He served as a backbencher and then as an opposition member before serving in the Cabinet as a member of the NDP majority for the past two terms.
This term he would have been one of three NDP members and five opposition members in the legislature.
NDP Eighth District Representative Marlon Penn, who was appointed opposition leader last Thursday, said he was surprised by Mr. Vanterpool’s announcement.
“I was not expecting it,” Mr. Penn said yesterday.
An NDP press release stated that “we must all now respect his decision and move forward in the best interest of our Territory.”
It also affirmed the party’s commitment to the people of District Four, who the document stated are put in a “precarious position” by Mr. Vanterpool’s resignation.
Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley (R-D7), the new minister of education, culture, youth affairs, fisheries and agriculture, spoke similarly.
“I think persons will be a bit disappointed considering we just went through an election campaign,” Dr. Wheatley said, adding, “If his heart is no longer in representing the district, it’s probably best that he retire early so he can have someone still come in relatively early and give the representation that the district needs.”