St. John Tradewinds News

Alecia Wells: Dedicated Worker, Busy Volunteer, Avid Traveler, Proud Grandma

Between serving hungry and thirsty customers, collecting money, making change and answering numerous questions called out to her from various people standing in line, Alecia Wells glances over to me with an apologetic smile as she attends to the never ending stream of customers. “I’ll be with you in a second,” she shouts out to me over the chattering tourists and local steel pan musicians on a hot afternoon in Franklin A. Powell, Sr. Park in Cruz Bay. As the public relations chairperson for the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization for the past five years, Wells is using her day off not to lie on a beach or kick back with a good book; instead, she is volunteering in the food booth at Pan-o-Rama to raise money for St. John Festival 2005. “I love this because I get to interact with people all over the Caribbean and in the U.S. – it’s just great,” Wells beamed. After several days, then weeks and eventually months attempting an interview with this energetic woman, it is easy to see why her time is somewhat of a precious commodity. With more than 25 years working under the Department of Education, Wells has worked as a vocational instructor on St. Thomas, served as the acting principal at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay and was the deputy superintendent for the St. Thomas-St. John district for two-and-one-half years. Wells is presently employed by the Department of Education where she is the program manager for vocational technical education, but she also busies herself with a slew of other jobs, none of which she receives payment from to compensate for her duties. Wells was elected to the Board of the Election System of the Virgin Islands and is currently serving her second term; she is a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association and was state president in 1991, presiding over BPW meetings around the territory. Community Service She also is a life long member of the Girls Scouts of the Virgin Islands and was a state president for six years; she has been a member of the American Red Cross for more than 15 years; she is a founding member of the St. John Com-munity Foundation which she helped start up in 1981; she is an active member of The United Way and serves on the Bishop’s Committee of St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church. One may wonder how this woman finds the time in the day to accomplish all that is scheduled on her planner. “You find time to do the things you want to do, and if I say yes to something I am going to do it – I am a woman of my word and I will do my utmost to complete it,” said Wells. “If I say no, don’t worry though, I won’t do it,” she added, with laughter in her voice. Renominated to PSC Most recently, Wells was renominated to the Public Services Commission by Governor Charles W. Turnbull, where she has served consecutive three-year terms as a commissioner since 1998, regulating utility businesses such as ferry boats, telephone companies, the V.I. Water and Power Authority and most recently, the Waste Management Authority. Wells was born in Savan, St. Thomas, where she grew up and has lived on St. John for more than 20 years. She lived stateside where she earned an education degree from what is now Bryant University in Rhode Island before returning to the islands. Passion for Teaching But wherever Wells has lived, she has always been devoted to her passion of teaching. “When I was working with inner-city students in New York and other places stateside, I realized teaching didn’t have to be in a classroom – you could teach anywhere,” said Wells. In 1970, the education-advocate began the first community-based GED (General Between serving hungry and thirsty customers, collecting money, making change and answering numerous questions called out to her from various people standing in line, Alecia Wells glances over to me with an apologetic smile as she attends to the never ending stream of customers. “I’ll be with you in a second,” she shouts out to me over the chattering tourists and local steel pan musicians on a hot afternoon in Franklin A. Powell, Sr. Park in Cruz Bay. As the public relations chairperson for the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization for the past five years, Wells is using her day off not to lie on a beach or kick back with a good book; instead, she is volunteering in the food booth at Pan-o-Rama to raise money for St. John Festival 2005. “I love this because I get to interact with people all over the Caribbean and in the U.S. – it’s just great,” Wells beamed. After several days, then weeks and eventually months attempting an interview with this energetic woman, it is easy to see why her time is somewhat of a precious commodity. With more than 25 years working under the Department of Education, Wells has worked as a vocational instructor on St. Thomas, served as the acting principal at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay and was the deputy superintendent for the St. Thomas-St. John district for two-and-one-half years. Wells is presently employed by the Department of Education where she is the program manager for vocational technical education, but she also busies herself with a slew of other jobs, none of which she receives payment from to compensate for her duties. Wells was elected to the Board of the Election System of the Virgin Islands and is currently serving her second term; she is a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association and was state president in 1991, presiding over BPW meetings around the territory. Community Service She also is a life long member of the Girls Scouts of the Virgin Islands and was a state president for six years; she has been a member of the American Red Cross for more than 15 years; she is a founding member of the St. John Com-munity Foundation which she helped start up in 1981; she is an active member of The United Way and serves on the Bishop’s Committee of St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church. One may wonder how this woman finds the time in the day to accomplish all that is scheduled on her planner. “You find time to do the things you want to do, and if I say yes to something I am going to do it – I am a woman of my word and I will do my utmost to complete it,” said Wells. “If I say no, don’t worry though, I won’t do it,” she added, with laughter in her voice. Renominated to PSC Most recently, Wells was renominated to the Public Services Commission by Governor Charles W. Turnbull, where she has served consecutive three-year terms as a commissioner since 1998, regulating utility businesses such as ferry boats, telephone companies, the V.I. Water and Power Authority and most recently, the Waste Management Authority. Wells was born in Savan, St. Thomas, where she grew up and has lived on St. John for more than 20 years. She lived stateside where she earned an education degree from what is now Bryant University in Rhode Island before returning to the islands. Passion for Teaching But wherever Wells has lived, she has always been devoted to her passion of teaching. “When I was working with inner-city students in New York and other places stateside, I realized teaching didn’t have to be in a classroom – you could teach anywhere,” said Wells. In 1970, the education-advocate began the first community-based GED (GeneralBetween serving hungry and thirsty customers, collecting money, making change and answering numerous questions called out to her from various people standing in line, Alecia Wells glances over to me with an apologetic smile as she attends to the never ending stream of customers. “I’ll be with you in a second,” she shouts out to me over the chattering tourists and local steel pan musicians on a hot afternoon in Franklin A. Powell, Sr. Park in Cruz Bay. As the public relations chairperson for the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization for the past five years, Wells is using her day off not to lie on a beach or kick back with a good book; instead, she is volunteering in the food booth at Pan-o-Rama to raise money for St. John Festival 2005. “I love this because I get to interact with people all over the Caribbean and in the U.S. – it’s just great,” Wells beamed. After several days, then weeks and eventually months attempting an interview with this energetic woman, it is easy to see why her time is somewhat of a precious commodity. With more than 25 years working under the Department of Education, Wells has worked as a vocational instructor on St. Thomas, served as the acting principal at Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay and was the deputy superintendent for the St. Thomas-St. John district for two-and-one-half years. Wells is presently employed by the Department of Education where she is the program manager for vocational technical education, but she also busies herself with a slew of other jobs, none of which she receives payment from to compensate for her duties. Wells was elected to the Board of the Election System of the Virgin Islands and is currently serving her second term; she is a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association and was state president in 1991, presiding over BPW meetings around the territory. Community Service She also is a life long member of the Girls Scouts of the Virgin Islands and was a state president for six years; she has been a member of the American Red Cross for more than 15 years; she is a founding member of the St. John Com-munity Foundation which she helped start up in 1981; she is an active member of The United Way and serves on the Bishop’s Committee of St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church. One may wonder how this woman finds the time in the day to accomplish all that is scheduled on her planner. “You find time to do the things you want to do, and if I say yes to something I am going to do it – I am a woman of my word and I will do my utmost to complete it,” said Wells. “If I say no, don’t worry though, I won’t do it,” she added, with laughter in her voice. Renominated to PSC Most recently, Wells was renominated to the Public Services Commission by Governor Charles W. Turnbull, where she has served consecutive three-year terms as a commissioner since 1998, regulating utility businesses such as ferry boats, telephone companies, the V.I. Water and Power Authority and most recently, the Waste Management Authority. Wells was born in Savan, St. Thomas, where she grew up and has lived on St. John for more than 20 years. She lived stateside where she earned an education degree from what is now Bryant University in Rhode Island before returning to the islands. Passion for Teaching But wherever Wells has lived, she has always been devoted to her passion of teaching. “When I was working with inner-city students in New York and other places stateside, I realized teaching didn’t have to be in a classroom – you could teach anywhere,” said Wells. In 1970, the education-advocate began the first community-based GED (General Educational Development) pre-paration courses on St. John, which were conducted at George H. Simmons Terrace until as recently as 2003. As the administrator of the volunteer-based GED preparation program which graduated four individuals, Wells brought in teachers and tutors who were willing to teach for free. “But we realized many people couldn’t read and wouldn’t be able to pass without being able to read,” said Wells, who even started a mini-literacy program within the preparation course program. “They had to want it for themselves as much as we wanted it for them.” Change on St. John As a lifelong islander and a St. John resident for more than two decades, Wells has noticed one thing on the island – change. “There used to be nothing in the harbor – it was just beautiful, but that is the price you pay for development,” said Wells. However, managed and planned development is not occurring on this rapidly-growing island, according to Wells. “We need managed and planned development – we’ve been talking about a land use plan for years but nothing has happened,” she said. The development on St. John is a unique situation when compared with the other two major islands in the territory. “St. John is the only place where anything is happening construction-wise – St. Thomas is overdeveloped and St. Croix is coming into its own with all of its beautiful land and space,” said Wells. “The development occurring on St. John is the newly rich people coming from the big cities and towns in the states who are trying to recreate their town here, but they can’t do that.” “You have to enjoy St. John for what it is: pristine,” said Wells. “People can go back to visit the big towns they are from when they want a break from St. John.” Changing St. John The unmanaged overdevelopment taking place on St. John has brought large-scale construction to the island’s land and oversized trucks to its narrow streets, which is changing the nature of St. John, explained Wells. “Everyone has the right to spend their money the way they want to as long as they are not infringing, taking over or harming other people’s way of living,” said Wells. “The local people need to stop selling their land for peanuts and hold on to it.” So how does this well-known and respected woman, who accomplishes more in one week than most people do in a month, fill in her precious free time? Reading, Relaxation and Traveling “I read,” said Wells. “I sit on the beach – my favorite beach is Hawksnest – I pack a basket of cheese, maybe some brie or swiss, and some grapes and I just relax.” “I also have a granddaughter, Ciara Marie Wells, who is the love of my life,” said Wells, obviously proud of her 5-year old granddaughter. When she gets the chance, Wells is also an avid traveler. “I love to travel. I like to go to Tortola with my ‘Poops’ (her significant other),” said Wells. “Or we go to St. Martin; it is just so low key, you can walk around, enjoy the stores, have lobster, drink wine and just watch the people go by.” Wells also visits the casinos when on the island, but only for a brief stop. “I’m not much of a gambler, but it’s a lot of fun – one cup of quarters, and when I’m done, I’m done,” said Wells, who said her largest winnings equaled several dollars. ABC’s Next on Travel List The “ABC” islands are next on Well’s travel map. “I want to go to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao,” said Wells. “I would love to go back to Cuba – and to Arizona and Reno, Nevada, because I’ve never been.” The Department of Education program manager is nearing retirement – she says it could be next month, next year or within the next two years – but one thing is for sure, her retirement will not be an idle one. After Wells retires, it’s on to law school. “My goal is to be the oldest attorney in the Virgin Islands,” said Wells. “I want to get a law degree on the Internet, that is the first thing I’m going to do after I retire.” “Just think, I can sit on the beach with my lap-top, and I could go to school right from Hawksnest,” said Wells, smiling at the thought of her future goal.