Oct. 23, 2005 Kenrick Augustus is a breath of fresh air at Transportation Services. Since signing on as manager in January with the job of improving the ferry company's bottom line, he has also tackled rate increases and customer service.
"I know there are problems," he said, speaking about crews that sometimes treat passengers rudely.
Pointing out that passengers pay the crews' salaries, he said he won't hesitate to fire crew members that don't live up to the company's standards. Augustus said he has fired people for coming to work late and walking off the job.
He said he's implemented other improvements aboard the ferries, including announcements when the ferry is going to be late. He said he's walked down to the ferry from Transportation Service's office at Wharfside Village to make the announcements himself when the crew failed to do so.
Augustus also initiated sending out press releases to alert the media, and subsequently the public, about schedule changes.
He said he hopes the standards he's setting for Transportation Services will spill over to the other ferry and barge companies.
The St. Kitts-born Augustus, 49, honed his business skills first as manager of the long-closed Music Man store and at Tri Mart convenience store, both on St. Thomas. He moved onto the insurance industry, working for State Mutual, All American Financial, and Nausch, Hogan and Murray Inc., a company that insures places like the University of the Virgin Islands, the West Indian Co. and local government buildings.
He spent much of 2004 consulting for Transportation Services as it developed its Homeland Security plan.
"We were the first company in the Virgin Islands to have a homeland security plan," he said, proud of the company's accomplishment.
He's taken the case for a rate increase for both Transportation Services and the island's second ferry company, Varlack Ventures, to the Public Services Commission. The companies are operating on a temporary rate increase, but Augustus expects that to be made permanent in December.
Augustus said the ferry companies hadn't had a rate increase in 16 years, but rising fuel prices made it necessary.
The company is also now allowed to charge for baggage. Augustus said that before St. John residents started taking their vehicles on the barge for trips to St. Thomas, most of the ferry baggage was groceries.
Now, tourists come with mounds of luggage that add weight to the ferries.
He's also developing more professional tours, an aspect of the business that consistently shows a profit. With that goal in mind, Transportation Services recently joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.
"This is a way for Transportation Services to grow," he said.
He said he's also pushing for the ferry companies to receive federal subsidies since they are part of the territory's mass transit system.
Augustus said that he's busy with Transportation Services and his part-time job at Nausch, Hogan and Murray, but down the road he'll consider running for a seat in the Legislature.
"The Virgin Islands has been very good to me. I hope to give something back," he said.
He said the Legislature is a place where he could make a difference.
Augustus continues to commute aboard the ferry from his home on St. Thomas to St. John.
He has a full plate, but still finds time to spend with his wife of 20 years, Monique. She owns If the Shoe Fits on St. Thomas.
And he plays tennis.
"Tennis, tennis and more tennis," he said, laughing.
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