Territory must 'get the best from the past,' Jackson says

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ST. THOMAS - Myron Jackson says his passion for history, culture and community will shape and inform his time in the 30th Legislature.

"My philosophy is 'go back and fetch it,'" he said. "Get the best from the past and bring it to the development of your future."

He is verbose, some might even say long-winded, but he holds strong opinions and is not afraid to share them.

"My whole life is premised on the preservation of our history, our culture, cultural resources, community service, and that we have a responsibility to pass onto our young this legacy," Jackson said.

After many years in public service, and one failed run for Senate in 2008, Jackson said he is ready to make the leap to elected office.

"I bring with me the institutional memory of community, of government operations and a deep understanding of a society that fostered and nurtured my being and me as an individual," he said.

His background and experience have landed him a chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation.

One of the biggest challenges Jackson hopes the 30th Legislature will take on is the territory's retirement system. System officials made recommendations for amendments to the law in the past Legislature, but no action was taken.

"There have been too many cooks in the pot when it comes to the retirement system," Jackson said.

Jackson also has a list of issues he said he plans to address, including fixing the educational system and finding alternative methods of education.

The territory spends a high amount of money per pupil, yet it is not yielding results, according to Jackson.

He wants to explore gifted student programs, better career and vocational education and better visual and performing arts opportunities for students.

In the coming term, he wants to address the population of students who will not go to college and find programs and ways for them to be productive in the society.

"They are left out of the equation," he said.

Jackson said he also wants to explore how the territory interacts with other Caribbean islands. He believes local talent could be outsourced to help sustain the Caribbean as a region.

Researching such an issue likely would require traveling, and previous senators' travel expenses have been a source frustration for many residents, particularly following last year's V.I. Inspector General audit of the Legislature.

Jackson said he supports travel for legitimate purposes, but recognizes that abuses have been made in the past.

"We live on an island, we cannot get in a car and travel to another destination," he said. "It is ludicrous to think that travel is not an essential part of a legislator, within the realm and function of that senator's legislative mandate."

While the use of technology can greatly reduce the need for off-island travel, Jackson said he sees senators as ambassadors, and in that role, they often do need to get out in the world and "press the flesh."

Jackson said he plans to watch his spending and be a responsible public official, but not at the expense of doing his job, he said.

"So, I plan to be frugal, to cut costs, be cost-saving, but I'm not going to be foolish," he said.

While the senator-elect believes that spending is a necessary part of good governance, he also acknowledges that transparency and accountability also is an essential element.

"We have a responsibility in the 30th Legislature to make sure that those abuses do not continue," Jackson said, referring to previous legislative bodies.

He said he also is a strong believer in making public records accessible.

"Any democratic society should have rights to have access to public records," Jackson said. "If we have laws on our books, and we have cloudy areas, than we need to revisit how the laws can be expanded and clarified."

Regarding other issues facing the territory, Jackson ticks off a cornucopia of concerns he hopes to address during his two-year tenure. He said he wants to address improving the quality of life for residents by revitalizing towns and neighborhoods and find ways to help the under-served population, which he acknowledges will require creative solutions in light of limited resources.

Jackson also pointed to the territory's energy issues and the need for green technology; using agriculture to stimulate the economy; the need for a comprehensive land and water use plan; an increase of recreational facilities; the Virgin Islands' political status as a U.S. territory; and focusing on incentives to encourage cottage industries, which fits with his philosophy of going back to the past to find solutions for the future.

"The Virgin Islands was built on cottage industries," he said.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

Myron Jackson

Age: 56

Education: bachelor's degree in fine arts and illustration from Parsons School of Design, 1979.

Most recent occupation: dState Historic Preservation Office, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, 2003-2011.

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