Part two of my interview with the Chief Councelor of Spanish Wells.
So what is the chief counselor?
From Jackie, “The chief counselor is like the mayor.”
She’s right. The term was supposed to be mayor but our local government changed it. I lobbied the local prime minister and his cabinet to have it changed. I don’t like the word. I know my people. I know that there would be too many people trying to kill each other in an attempt to brag about being mayor but don’t necessarily want to responsibilities that goes with it. Am I right or my wrong? It didn’t take the long to convince the prime minister, may be about six weeks. He knew where I was coming from but he told me “Now you have to convince the cabinet.” After meeting with them, they could see that I had no ulterior motive. What I was planning was honest and aboveboard. Even though the position is the same chief counselor, it [chief counselor] doesn’t sound as high and mighty or as important as “mayor” does.
It’s a name that seems to suit you.
It just seemed that there would be fewer people willing to fight for it. If you’re not prepared to accept the responsibility that goes with it you shouldn’t be there [in public service]. I go to Nassau almost every other week to deal with all sorts of things for all the people here: paperwork, birth certificates, marriage certificates, you name it. It’s an ongoing thing. I think I will go for one more term. But I don’t think I’m going to go beyond that. That’s when I would like to turn the headaches of local government over to someone else. That’ll be 12 years and time for somebody else to come along. I don’t think it’ll be a problem because we do have a lot of people here who are very interested in keeping Spanish Wells just as it is. And when we ride around together later, you be able to see what I’m talking about (referring to the tour of Spanish Wells he was kind enough to offer me.).
Does Spanish Wells have a strong sense of community?
Very strong. It’s almost like one big family. Even though there are political differences on the island. It doesn’t make a difference.
Do think that’s different on the other islands?
It is unfortunate. Most of the other islands in the Bahamas allow 90% of their decisions to be made by politics. And that’s the one thing I can honestly be proud of on Spanish Wells. Since local government came here to Spanish Wells. I can honestly say that there has never been any decision made by local government of any kind that contains typical political rhetoric. It didn’t matter what’s somebody’s political opinions are. They’re entitled to that. That’s democracy. There are entitled to their rights as a Bahamian. Now that’s not to say that if the prime minister dissolves parliament and calls a general election. I won’t get out in campaign as hard as I can for what I believe – and I expect you to do the same. The day after the election, when the votes are thrown in the garbage can. Life goes on for the next five years. That’s the reality. Unfortunately, we have some very immature people when it comes to politics. It can be a shame.
So what do you believe unites the people of Spanish Wells?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say but I’ll give you a prime example. When Andrew came in ’92 (the hurricane that leveled Spanish Wells and North Eleuthera) politics had divided the island’s 65 to 35 because of politics. We had election three or four days before the hurricane and it’s one of the worst elections this island had ever been through as far as tensions between peoples differing opinions. But God in his wisdom brought Andrew. We didn’t want Andrew, but God knew. The night after Andrew came and the winds subsided we came to see if anyone was dead or not. I honestly envisioned 100 to 150 people were dead. But as we walked. I kept telling everybody to spread the word that we would all meet the following morning. We needed to get the island cleaned up. It was a mess, you couldn’t walk the roads. The following morning at eight o’clock, there was 150 men gathered out there with chainsaws, shovels, rigs, forklifts, and you name it. So we split into two groups. So we started with two groups with one going one way and the other went down the main road and by 12 o’clock. We met, and you could ride around Spanish wells in a vehicle! At least you can get around. And people who would not speak to each other in the days before, worked side-by-side. So God, in his wisdom, knew what was best and how to resolve it. We still have our difference of opinion, but we forgot politics. It never seems to play that role anymore. Now, we seem to vote and then go home. They’re things more important in life than politics. I think that’s the message the good Lord was trying to get across. Politics is important, but not the most important thing in life. Taking care of your fellow man is far more important.
Thank you for being so candid.
I’m honest to the core. No doubt about it. I’m one of the few people, Devin, that express what I believe and if somebody tells me that I’m wrong. I have no problem saying that I’m sorry or backing down and admitting when I was wrong.
About how many permanent residents lived in Spanish Wells?
Are there any new developments in the area?
There is a new development. If they get what they want it could be the biggest thing that’s happened in Eleuthera in quite a while. It could mean three to four hundred permanent jobs. If the people want them. But the key is training because our people have got to be trained. There will be an 18-hole golf course, a big arena and two to three hundred homes for the rich and famous. And every one of them will want one or two maids, depending on how big the houses are and how prestigious they think they are. But that’s the reality. The people, our people, will have to be trained to know how to cope with it. At the end of the day I can see comfortably three to four hundred permanent jobs for people in north Eleuthera. It’s a half a billion dollar project at the end of the day. It’s on Royal Island, west from here five or six miles. But nothing going on until they can get approval from the government and now they’re waiting for approval.
Interviewed by Devin Galaudet