Dr. Arlene Smith-Thompson, retired educator and public servant is currently seeking to become the first female representative of the Third Electoral District.
2018 was an interesting year for Dr. Smith-Thompson who completed her doctoral degree in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, while dealing with the personal issues that arose from those disasters. Now in closing this year she is entering the political arena being what she termed “an unlikely candidate”.
In an interview with The Island Sun newspaper on 4 December Mrs. Smith-Thompson discussed her political aspirations and her bid to become the next Third District Representative. She said: “In many ways I would say that I am at the crossroads in my life’s work. Yes, I have done all this work as an educator. I have impacted a lot of lives I have done quite a lot of work in government administration as a result I do understand how policy works…Now that I have entered a higher level of public service by presenting myself to be a representative of the people I see where I can harness all of these skills and the experiences that I have gathered over the years and sort of package it in a different way.”
It’s now about advocacy as Mrs. Smith-Thompson said that she aspires to be the voice of young persons in the community. Specifically, she noted that she plans to speak on behalf of marginalized young people.
Women’s issue are also dear to the former Educator’s heart and she said that she has noted that a glass ceiling still exists in terms of how far up the ladder women often get in terms of public service. She said that there is still scope for further ascension of women in the society and she mentioned her political aspirations as a thrust in that direction — considering that the Third District has never had a female representative.
“As far as history goes and as far as my research is telling a woman has never contested an election in the Third District. There has never been a female representative in that District and persons think because that has never been done why do I think that I could be the first to do that. The question is why not? I think that gives me the impetus to want to do it, just to show others. I want to be a trailblazer to show women that yes you can aspire for high offices, you shouldn’t set barriers on yourselves and don’t let anybody’s expectations of you become your reality.”
The Third District candidate described her decision to enter the political ring as part of her evolution. She said that previously this decision was never one she would mull: “This was never on my radar to be in a political arena seeking office for a number of reasons. I never thought about it. For the most part I am the type of person that would prefer to make my contributions behind the scenes so to speak, having come to this point in my life …I thought with the opportunity arising in this case in the Third District to represent the Virgin Islands Party, because there was that opening to do so. I thought well it is worth getting in the race instead of standing on the sideline,” she explained.
As it relates to her aspirations Mrs. Smith-Thompson said that she is prompted to run as she observes the various causes she feels need urgent championing. “There are a lot of issues in the District in our country overall that I feel I can lend a voice to that I can help to be a change agent…At this stage in my life I have nothing to lose…It is a bold step for me as well.”
She described herself as an unlikely candidate as she said that persons have remarked that she does not fit the stereotype of the typical politician: “The question I may get is ‘you too soft to be a politician, I don’t see you in that role; are you sure this is something that you want to do?’ I more see this for somebody who is aggressive, who is almost like a pitbull – that type of behavior,” she said she has been told.
The political hopeful said that she is not daunted by the aggressive nature of the campaign trail. “I feel that anything good that you want in life you have to be willing to fight for it and I see the good in trying to represent persons in my District, in trying to be a voice for change in the country and there is just so much good…I see it as duty as a calling.”
“Once you have a message that people can sort of align themselves and relate to they can understand…I feel it wouldn’t matter that there is a softness to my personality; I think that should be a plus because I would be seen as being approachable and easily accessible. I don’t put those barriers in my way,” Mrs. Smith-Thompson added.
In her bid for the representative position Mrs. Smith-Thompson identified four areas she hopes to bring about change in the District. These areas include health, economic development, education and social development. In the area of health, she plans to offer assistance to homebound residents, address the pollution issues resulting from the incinerator and institute a health and wellness council in the District.
On the economic development area, agriculture is key – as Mrs. Smith-Thompson said there is need for the establishment of a farming association that promotes agriculture and livestock farming as well as the implementation of a roadside District farmers Market.
Under the education banner of her platform mention was made of a third district scholarship fund among other things. Community bonding and beautification efforts were some of the areas mentioned under the social development banner.