Atherden sworn in as Opposition leader
Jeanne Atherden has been sworn in as Leader of the Opposition by John Rankin, the Governor, at a brief ceremony this afternoon at Government House.
Ms Atherden had been selected by the One Bermuda Alliance membership to lead the party, over former leaders Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and Craig Cannonier, in a vote on Saturday.
She said: “The party put their confidence in me to elect me the leader of the Opposition party. Now I know that the work is truly beginning. As I said the other night, we are down for some heavy lifting.”
Ms Atherden added: It’s very important for us to have an Opposition that is a viable and strong advocate for the people of Bermuda.”
The 69-year-old accounting executive had served as Shadow Minister of Finance after the OBA’s electoral defeat in July returned the party to the Opposition.
In the wake of her successful bid for leadership, Ms Atherden vowed to rebuild the Opposition — saying the OBA needed to “work on making sure we listen to what Bermuda tells us”.
She also pledged to boost diversity in gender, race and age, and make the party into “the Opposition that Bermuda needs and to make sure that Government does its job”.
Ms Atherden’s latest appointment caps a nearly ten-year political career that began in May 2008 when she was appointed to the Senate for the United Bermuda Party.
Prior to that, Ms Atherden had served as a branch chairman for the UBP, and had been offered a place in the Upper House by Sir John Swan in 1994 — but had avoided the front lines of politics because of work and family commitments. Her public service roles ranged from education to health.
She was appointed chairwoman of the UBP in July 2010, and rose to Opposition Senate leader four months later.
The UBP subsequently merged with the new Bermuda Democratic Alliance to create the One Bermuda Alliance in 2011, with Ms Atherden becoming deputy chairman of the new entity.
She declared her candidacy in Constituency 19, Pembroke West, under the OBA in November 2011 — and won her first seat in Parliament as its representative in the General Election of December 2012, beating her brother, Erwin, who ran as an independent candidate.
In May 2014, Ms Atherden joined the Cabinet as Minister of Health, Seniors and the Environment, with the Environment portfolio going to Cole Simons two years later.
Her job came with challenges, such as controversy over plans to introduce medical precertification, and an unpopular move to tighten insurance coverage for mammograms that brought protesters onto the ground of Cabinet. That proposal was dropped in June 2016.
Ms Atherden, the vice-president and account executive for Paragon Brokers (Bermuda) Ltd, became one of just 12 OBA MPs to win a seat in Parliament this July after the Progressive Labour Party swept back to power. She is now the OBA’s fourth leader.
She is the daughter of early UBP candidate Pearl Adderley, as well as sister of former UBP MP Erwin.