Charlton hopeful of reversing result
Ray Charlton is determined to bring the same energy he has invested as chairman of Wedco to uplifting the West End.
The One Bermuda Alliance candidate for Sandys North has a vision for turning Somerset into an area where people will want to come work, live and play.
Mr Charlton spoke to The Royal Gazette as he prepared to go head to head once more with Progressive Labour Party MP Michael Scott, who declined to participate in any interviews.
“I believe there’s a symbiotic relationship that could be achieved by being both the MP for the area and the chairman of Wedco,” Mr Charlton said.
“And what I’d like to do is take the energy that I’ve spent here in the last 4½ years at Wedco and spread it through the entire constituency.
“My vision is to uplift Somerset so that it’s not some place where people give it a second thought. I want them to consider Somerset to be a place where they want to work, live and play.”
Mr Charlton, who took up the post as Wedco chairman after losing against Mr Scott by eight votes during the 2012 General Election, announced in April that he would be retiring from the position and distancing himself from public life to focus on his health once Wedco had fulfilled its America’s Cup commitments, citing a growing tide of politically driven divisive rhetoric and constant negativity.
But he changed his mind after receiving an “overwhelming” response from supporters and even opponents in the PLP.
“That was special to me but what was most special is that many of the Wedco employees, the staff, asked me to reconsider,” he said. “I think they gave me the boost to continue on.
“I was becoming disillusioned with politics and I still am disillusioned with our adversarial system, but I realise that sometimes you’ve got to put that beside you and if you want to serve the community you just keep working, so here I am.”
Having grown up in the West End and now with 4½ years in the position under his belt, he is a familiar face in the area.
“The reception has been great — most people commend me on the work that has been done in the Dockyard,” he said. “I don’t want to predict the outcome, but I’m putting myself out there.
“The decision is in the hands of the voters of Sandys North. If they’ve felt that during these past 4½ years I’ve served them up here, getting things done in the Dockyard, then they will be the ones who decide whether or not they’ll elect me to serve in the House of Assembly.”
According to Mr Charlton, the main concerns he’d heard from area residents were about the economy and employment.
“People are saying that there are still many without jobs and they see the economy rebounding but it hasn’t reached all sectors yet.
“We believe that we have the right team to continue on with the work that we’ve done in improving the economy and with that the jobs will come.”
On a more local scale, he said water supply was causing problems in Boaz Island, where Wedco owns 31 units.
“In Boaz Island, with the Boaz Island Village Condominium Association, they’ve got issues where the infrastructure is now decades old and they have problems with the water supply, in particular where they are paying probably as much, or maybe more, for the water they are losing through leakage than the water they are consuming.
“This really came to a head sometime earlier in the year when major leaks were discovered. Right now maintenance fees are going towards purchasing water and that’s a major issue for them.
“That’s something I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to correct because I’d like to see all of those units uplifted there.”
Mr Charlton also highlighted work done in Dockyard since he became chairman, including the refurbishment of buildings, an irrigation system and new clock faces on the Clocktower Mall.
“For the past 4½ years, more has been accomplished in Dockyard and in the West End area than has been accomplished in the past 30,” he said.
But he said there was still work to be done, with more vacant lots and buildings in the constituency needing attention.
He also pointed out potential development opportunities at the old seaplane hangar on Boaz Island, the Parsonage, Maria Hill and Albert Row, along with buildings in Somerset Village.
Recalling the latter as a thriving area when he was younger, Mr Charlton added: “I want to try to find a way that people want to do business here.”
He also wants to diversify businesses in Dockyard and create nightlife to entice visitors off the cruise ships, which “have every amenity imaginable”, by repurposing some of the newly renovated buildings.
The Royal Gazette also approached Mr Scott for an interview, but he responded that “after some reflection on the interview request for C36, I decline interview at this stage pre General Election.
“I’m happy to review the opportunities for any interview after I have contested and held my seat in Sandys.”
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