March 30, 2006 — St. Croix Fire Services held a ceremony Thursday to promote several experienced firefighters. With family, friends and co-workers witnessing the proceedings, nine firefighters were pinned to signify their new rank.
"It's an honor to extend congratulations to you," St. Croix Fire Chief Ovaldo Graham said, adding, "Since 1996 there has not been a promotion of this caliber."
Graham gave thanks to Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and V.I. Fire Services Director Merwin C. Potter for their assistance with processing the paperwork needed to adjust the pay of the new officers.
"Your contribution has been rewarded," Graham continued. He advised the group to lead by example, use good judgment and prepare fellow firefighters to assume leadership positions.
"We have made history," Potter said, noting 10 St. Thomas/St. John district firefighters were promoted last week in that district. "We have confidence in your abilities," Potter said, but cautioned those promoted about the pitfalls of leadership. "It's not easy, challenges will be forthcoming." Potter said Homeland Security and the threat of terrorism have increased the responsibilities of firefighters who have to be vigilant.
Richards congratulated the newly appointed leaders. "Today is your day, you are now a role model," he said. "The administration is doing everything possible to move the Fire Services forward." Richards said there were difficulties getting Notices of Personnel Action (NOPA) for those promoted, in St. Croix in particular.
During the ceremony, the new officers were handed envelopes containing the pink NOPA slips, which officially stated their new position and salary.
The keynote speaker was Sen. Pedro Encarnacion, a 20-year Fire Services veteran and former Fire Services director. "We meet here today to honor and promote those who have remained faithful and loyal to their commitment to serve their community," Encarnacion said.
Encarnacion said his decision to become a firefighter was made early in life because of the protection firefighters provide to the community. "There are few professions where you can see the impact of your work so vividly," he said. After the pinning, Encarnacion presented the new officers with certificates of merit from his office.
Graham said the promotions were needed since 1996. "We needed more captains in St. Croix to run the shifts," Graham said. He said two captains and lieutenants were running the shifts in St. Croix while four captains do the same job in the St. Thomas/St. John district.
Graham acknowledged Potter's efforts to "strike a balance" in the department. "He brings the 'one Fire Services' concept," Graham said.
Here is the list of St. Croix promotees and their years of service:
Capt. Corey A. Kent, (15); Lt. Yvonne Samuel, (18); Lt. Steve O. Brow, (17); Sgt. Clifford Joseph Sr., (11); Sgt. Dennis Lynch, (20); Cpl. Felix Dennis, (11); Cpl. Charles Gilbert Jr., (14); Deputy Inspector I Gregory Williams Sr., (15); and Deputy Inspector II Cheryl McIntosh, (14).
On St. Thomas, the following fire service personnel were promoted March 22:
Capt. Andre Smith, Capt. Clayton Thomas, Lt. Gustave Dowley, Sgt. David Hodge, Sgt. Arthur Harrigan, Cpl. Esbon Gumbs, Cpl. George Straus, Cpl. Andre Dorsey and Fire Inspector Leon Battiste.
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