Home News Local news On Island Profile: Leona Smith

On Island Profile: Leona Smith


June 9, 2005 –– Her boss at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs says St. John coordinator Leona Smith is there for him "24-7, she's not a nine-to-fiver."
"If I need her to do something, she does it without talking about overtime," DLCA Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said.
Smith is the department's point person on St. John. She does it all: processes license applications for folks not yet using the department's web site, inspects businesses, investigates complaints and makes sure businesses are in compliance with their license. She said no one else in the department has a job like hers.
She joined Licensing in 1990 after spending several years in the reservations department at Caneel Bay Resort.
Born 44 years ago on St. Thomas — because St. John doesn't have a hospital — Smith attended Guy Benjamin School, Julius E. Sprauve School and Eudora Kean High School before heading off to get her associate's degree from Elizabeth Seaton College in Yonkers, N.Y., in 1981.
She went on to receive her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College in New York before returning home.
"I thought I could contribute to the community and I wanted to be back home," she said.
Smith said she puts her criminal justice degree to use at Licensing and at her part-time job at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
As if she wasn't busy enough with full- and part-time jobs, Smith is the vice chairman of the Government Employees Retirement System, serves on the West Indian Co. board and is the guiding force at the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization, which puts on the annual July 4th celebration.
Smith and a group of her more youthful colleagues wrested the committee reins from the old guard in what amounted to a coup several years ago. Since then, the celebration has grown considerably. Smith cited the musical show called the Festival Mix as one of the additions that brings more people to St. John.
"You can't find a room on St. John," she said, noting the shortage of hotel rooms for this year's annual celebration.
However, Smith said putting on the month's worth of events takes money, and while the $75,000 from the government helps, it isn't nearly enough. She said the fireworks alone run $35,000.
And the money doesn't come in advance of the event. Smith said this forces committee members to take money out of their own pockets to fund the event in hopes they'll be reimbursed. She said the committee still owes $4,000 from last year's July 4th Celebration.
Smith said the St. John business community needs to help more. She said Caneel Bay Resort, the Westin Resort and Villas, Gallows Point and a small business or two always help, but she said the committee gets no assistance from the remainder of the island's businesses.
"The villas never help," she said.
She said it would help if the villa managers would donate rooms or cut the price so the committee could host out-of-town performers and the like.
Smith came by her interest in the July 4th Celebration through her mother, Jane Johannes. Her mother has long been a participant in the event.
Although she currently has her hands full as the committee gears up for the annual event, Smith says that when she has free time, she likes to go to the beach, go boating and travel. She just returned from a 12-day trip to Switzerland and Venice, and over the years has visited Germany, Paris, London, Madrid, Brussels and more.
"I love Europe," she said.
Next on her travel calendar: Monte Carlo and Tahiti, but not in the same trip.
Although she's single, Smith has a long-distance romance in Philadelphia, where she visits frequently.
But she said New York is her favorite city, and she still keeps up with friends she made in college.
Indeed, Smith hopes to continue her education by getting a master's degree in the not-too-distant future.
"It's one of my main goals," she said.
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