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Cole Simons: overview of a political career

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Cole Simons (File photograph)

N.H. Cole Simons, a vice-president at Butterfield Bank, became leader of the One Bermuda Alliance in the wake of the party’s electoral defeat in October 2020, when Mr Simons was unopposed in his bid to succeed Craig Cannonier.

He was also the OBA’s Shadow Minister of Finance.

A veteran MP, the 71-year-old’s political career was launched in November 1998 under the former United Bermuda Party, when the previous ruling party was toppled in a Progressive Labour Party sweep of the polls in the General Election.

He became an MP with fellow newcomer Alan Marshall in the days of dual-seat constituencies, when the two retained Smith’s North for the UBP.

Cole Simons at a 2017 press conference (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

He subsequently campaigned successfully in Smith’s South in 2003 and 2007.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Simons looked back on his early years as an MP as a more congenial time among parliamentarians.

His roles included Opposition House Leader, Opposition Whip and Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Simons was returned to the House in December 2012, again for Smith’s South, under the OBA banner, when the party took the reins from the PLP in a closely fought General Election.

He was appointed Minister of the Environment in 2016, during the OBA’s single term in government.

Cole Simons, during his tenure as Minister of the Environment (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

He spoke out on threats to the island’s economy in Opposition roles that included economic development and, since November 2020, finance.

Mr Simons repeatedly warned that Bermuda’s embrace of fintech needed to put the island’s international reputation first.

As a party leader, Mr Simons struck a conciliatory tone towards the governing party, saying his style of leadership involved consensus — but that there would be “occasions when I will put my size 14s down and say that something is not in the best interests of the country”.

He pledged to rebuild the OBA and reconnect the party with its community.

A lifelong businessman, Mr Simons earned a bachelor’s degree in management through the University of Maryland at the Naval Air Station in Bermuda, then took a diploma in Business Administration at Humber College of Applied Art and Technology in Canada.

Politics featured from early on when he became a member of the UBP Under 40 Caucus. The group formed in the 1970s, aimed at reforming the ruling party.

In 1990 he became chairman of the UBP's Leaders of Tomorrow group and rose to become the group’s president.

Mr Simons’s career started in 1975 with a job as a front desk clerk at the Fairmont Southampton Princess, then he joined American International as an accounting clerk.

Between 1978 and 1985, Mr Simons worked as an assistant underwriter and then president of Ivanhoe International Limited, then as an underwriter and manager at GTE Reinsurance before joining the Bank of Bermuda, later HSBC, in 1988.

He married his wife, Rochelle, in 1986.

He has served as a chairman of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse; as well as the formation committee of the Council Partners; as a member of the Consumer Affairs Board; as a director of the Bermuda Conservatory of Music; and as a director of the National Dance Foundation.

Other public service roles included membership on the Bermuda Immigration Board in the 1990s.

Mr Simons has been a prominent member of the Bermuda Equestrian Federation.

His resignation speech singled out a decision in 2009 by Ewart Brown, the former premier, to secretly bring four Uighurs detained by the US at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to the island.

Mr Simons called it a definitive moment in the island’s politics.

At the time, he said Dr Brown “demonstrated a lack of respect for the Bermuda people, the House of Assembly and Bermuda's Cabinet”.

He added: “I truly feel that we are being used.”

He was Opposition Whip through the UBP’s unsuccessful motion of no confidence in the Government.

Mr Simons went so far as to meet the Chinese Ambassador to Britain in its aftermath to discuss its implications.

In 2011, Mr Simons joined the bulk of UBP MPs in leaving the party for what would become the OBA.

He took the shadow portfolio for the environment and spoke out on topics ranging from dangerous dog breeds to illegal fishing.

In a 2021 interview, Mr Simons acknowledged the OBA’s shortcomings after a beating at the polls left the Opposition with only six MPs to the PLP’s 30.

“We were caught unprepared for the election, from the party point of view, and we have to own that,” he told The Royal Gazette.

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Published August 09, 2023 at 8:02 am (Updated August 09, 2023 at 8:02 am)

Cole Simons: overview of a political career

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