Volume I Issue 1 | August 2021
My fellow Virgin Islanders and friends, welcome to the very first edition of the Potter Blotter. My newsletter, where I will be sharing my position on the issues of the day, and a summary of my recent legislative activities, to include accomplishments, and major priorities. I am truly honored to have been elected to serve as your Senator in the 34th legislature, a privilege I do not take for granted.
Committee Chairmanship
In early January, my colleagues selected me to lead one of the most important committees in the VI Legislature, the Committee on Rules & Judiciary.  By law, the Rules Committee is mandated to vet the Governor’s nominees to Executive Branch Agencies, Boards and Commissions, as well as Judicial nominees to the Superior Court. Rules also serves as the clearinghouse for all bills. Just about every legislative initiative, once vetted through its original committee of jurisdiction, is assigned to Rules for further evaluation before being forwarded to the full body for final consideration. To a large extent, the Committee of Rules and Judiciary determine the legislative agenda.  
The Board Nomination Process
As the Rules Chair, I quickly discovered that many qualified Virgin Islanders, although more than willing to volunteer their time and expertise, fail to do so, because of fear.  Fear of appearing before the legislature and being treated disrespectfully, roughed up and embarrassed. Recognizing this, I immediately established a plan of action to address the fear and trepidation regarding the nomination process. I established a policy of meeting with each of the Governor’s nominees beforehand - walking them through what to expect, answering questions, addressing their concerns and apprehensions, and making them feel at ease.

Additionally, my team and I streamlined the nominee questionnaire by implementing, for the first time in the Legislature's history, an electronic, fillable document, allowing nominees to complete all required paperwork online for direct submission to my office. We also established a collaborative initiative with the Office of the Counsel to the Governor to eliminate duplicative steps in the nomination process, where possible. These strategic changes have greatly improved the efficiency of the nomination process, ensuring that boards and commissions are properly equipped to perform their statutorily mandated functions.  On a related matter, I must commend Governor Bryan for nominating quite a number of fresh talented faces to serve on the various Boards and Commissions.

In the last six months, we successfully vetted nominees to the VI Board of Land Use Appeals, the VI Board of Architects, Engineers, and land Surveyors;  the VI Coastal Zone Management Commission; the VI Board of General Contractors; the VI Taxicab Commission; the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees; the VI Board of Pharmacy; the VI Board of Social Work Licensure; the VI Board of Nurse Licensure; the VI Housing Finance Authority Board of Directors; the VI Board of Aquaculture and Mariculture; the VI Real Estate Commission; the VI Public Services Commission; the VI Board of Public Accountancy; the Historic Preservation Commission; the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works; and the Commissioner of Finance. Yes, we have been working!
Brief Summary of Legislative Accomplishments
Time in the legislature goes by quickly.  As a Senator, you have a very short time to make an impact.  Here are just a few of my accomplishments during my first six months in office:

  • Prime sponsored legislation funding significant Territorial Neighborhood Road repair projects. You will be seeing major road work in places like Savan, Bovoni and Tutu 
  • Co-sponsored legislation limiting the number of boards a cabinet official can serve on.  This will ensure that agency heads don’t stretch themselves too thin thereby compromising their quality of work
  • Co-sponsored legislation allowing qualified Virgin Islanders living abroad to serve on local boards
  • Drafted legislation extending career incentive benefits to all peace officers.  
  • Co-sponsored legislation to restore the 8% salary reduction to GVI employees
  • Drafted the Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2021 supporting the emotional and financial involvement of fathers in the lives of their children 
  • Drafted legislation to support VIPA’s efforts to upgrade and repair the docking area at Red Hook in support of the new Customs building
  • Drafted legislation to create a remote work force for GVI employees (line of site)
  • Drafted legislation establishing mandatory Mental Health Education and Instruction in our territory’s public schools, grades K-12

GERS Solutions Summit

Of course, the 10,000-pound elephant in the room is the projected 2024 insolvency of the GERS and the devastating impact this would have on thousands of retirees; not to mention the unspeakable toll it would have on the VI economy.  GERS’s unfunded liability is rapidly approaching 5 billion dollars.  It would be a waste of time and energy to rehash how we got here and to assign blame.  It is imperative that we focus on finding viable solutions with a sense of urgency. The consequences are far too dire.

I propose that we convene a major 2-day GERS Solutions Summit this fall, following passage of the FY 2022 budget. The goal of the summit would be to find a strategy to extend the life of the system by five years to provide the breathing room necessary to implement more permanent structural changes. Summit participants will include the GERS, (key staff, consultants and actuaries); Governor Albert Bryant, Lt Governor Roach and the GVI’S financial team; two representatives from GRUFF; and my Senate colleagues. The Solutions Summit will be led by a professional facilitator, to guide the sessions.  Topics such as, revenue generating bills, strategies for bond refinancing - taking advantage of the attractive low interest rate environment, strategies for obtaining a pension bond, etc., would be discussed, with the end product being the development of a strategic plan over the two days for immediate implementation.

If there is one uncontroverted fact, it is that we must save the system.  Sadly, we are rapidly running out of time! We owe it to the thousands of retirees who gave the best years of their life serving the Virgin Islands community - those retired teachers and firefighters, nurses and groundskeepers, accountants and clerks, police officers and accountants. Governor Bryan has agreed in principle to the Summit and I am confident that my colleagues and the GERS will follow suit.  I will keep you apprised of further developments. 
Special Projects & Community Outreach

Our office collaborated with UVI Cooperative Extension Service, and a host of sponsors to put together a “Plant a Seed’ challenge. The goals of the challenge, which targets children and families are to: 

  1. Spark the love for home gardening
  2. Replace “screen time” with “green time”
  3. Encourage VI youth to pursue a career in agriculture
  4. Promote entrepreneurship at a “Sell your Produce” market, at the conclusion of the contest.

We were also extremely proud to partner with the VI Lottery, Southland Gaming, and First Bank to implement a powerful financial literacy booth-camp called Wealthy Habits.  Close to 300 VI youth between the ages of 11-18, participated in the first round of this initiative. They learned about budgeting, the economy, credit scores, needs vs wants, the stock market and investing, just to name a few.
Oversight Responsibility
As your Senator, I take my oversight responsibility very seriously. But to be clear, oversight does not mean that Senators run the executive branch agencies; it does not make Senators experts on everything. The people we hire to run government agencies are the subject matter experts that we rely on to do their jobs.  My objective when an agency head comes before me is to ask probing questions, problem-solve and find a positive and constructive path forward.  It is counterproductive to ridicule, humiliate, frustrate, chastise, and embarrass a testifier.  This approach yields nothing but resentment and resistance.  Just think about it.  Has this method yielded any positive results over the years? While checks and balances are important in a democracy, the time has come for us to work together to address the myriad challenges that have plagued the territory for decades.

You hired me to be thoughtful and to find creative solutions and that is what I intend to do. 
Summer Interns
For approximately six (6) weeks, Senator Potter’s office was blessed with four vibrant, intelligent, young Virgin Islanders. The four Summer Interns, K. Callwood, D. Blake, L. Webbe and S. Sekou performed light office duties and assisted with the implementation of two Family Redemption Initiative projects, the “Plant a Seed Challenge” and The “Virtual Financial Literacy” program. As ambassadors for the Financial Literacy Program, they enrolled and monitored the progress of the program participants as well as provided technical assistance as needed.

They quickly became valuable members of the team. Their interpersonal skills enabled them to establish a bond with each other, as well as the adults. They demonstrated excellent work ethics and provided a much-needed level of technological savvy and gaiety in the office. We look forward to the anticipated success of these young Virgin Islanders and pray that God continues to bless them.
In the coming months, I will share more initiatives focused on strengthening the foundation of the VI community, the family. These initiatives include tax credits for businesses that provide second chance opportunities for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society; the establishment of a diabetes reduction plan aimed at reducing type II diabetes by 40%, as well as identifying land on the east end of St. Thomas for the establishment of a community garden.  We will also launch a major strengthening families conference. My vision is to facilitate common-sense solutions, that will produce generations of happy, healthy, economically empowered Virgin Islanders!
I look forward to bringing you the next edition of The Potter Blotter. Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit my website www.senatormiltonpotter.com to keep up with my initiatives. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (@senatormpotter). Thank you, for granting me the opportunity to represent you, as your Senator in the 34th Legislature of the US Virgin Islands.