ST. THOMAS — With more than two decades of banking, insurance and financial management experience, Hubert Frederick believes he will be the most well-versed lieutenant governor in 30 years.
Strongly apolitical, Frederick casts himself more as a “results-driven” professional, the kind of candidate who has actually started a business, created jobs and helped people at a granular level with financial and insurance matters.
Indeed, politics is not an ambition for Frederick. Rather, he said, it’s an opportunity to share his knowledge, contribute to the community and ultimately make a difference.
“We need someone with a vision — and right now, we’ve got non-visionary, political people in leadership that rely on a professional person like myself to try to carve out a vision for them,” Frederick said. “That never works because they only took the job for political reasons.”
A native and current resident of St. Croix, Frederick’s educational journey on-island and on the mainland have led him to several of the nation’s Fortune 500 financial institutions.
As an auditor with the Deloitte, Haskins and Sells accounting firm, managing director of a bank and even as deputy commissioner of the V.I. Health Department, Frederick believes his background in business financing, health care administration, commercial banking, real estate, taxes and insurance will prove invaluable to the territory.
“I’m a businessperson at heart,” Frederick said. “The Revised Organic Act of 1954 assumed that the governor would be the political head of the titular state but that the lieutenant governor would be a professional person to manage the economy — so, why not put a professional in office?”
Today, Frederick is the owner of Island Insurance Agency, Frederick Commercial Business Center, a laundromat and a dry cleaner located at Gallows Bay on St. Croix.
For Frederick, the unwillingness of banks to ease up on their credit standards dealt a huge blow to residents in need of loans.
Access to capital, he said, is what can “ignite” a recovery because so much of a person’s road to normalcy depends on critical and even day-to-day expenditures.
Instead, he said, people are given an impression that they should wait around for federal intervention, under the false hope that these grant monies will filter down to them.
“If you want people to borrow money, you got to be willing to ease up your credit standards,” he said. “Maybe the credit score doesn’t have to be 620, you could drop it down to 615 or 610, and all of a sudden, another pool of people is eligible for loans.”
Frederick said as lieutenant governor and banking commissioner, he will have many discussions with the banks to start reviewing their credit policies and easing up their credit standards.
He also said banks need to ensure their ATM machines can provide larger amounts of cash after a disaster.
“During the storms, you couldn’t withdraw more than $200 from the ATM — we went from a digital platform to the Dark Ages overnight,” he said. “We should have had plans in place to mitigate that, but no one talked about the banks.”
Frederick accused Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter of being more reactive than proactive, especially toward his advocacy of insurance and making sure residents were properly insured before disasters like Irma and Maria.
“The storms will probably set us back further because those people who didn’t have insurance or were underinsured, it’s going to take years for them to catch up,” Frederick said. “Had we put someone in that position who knew what to do to prevent these kinds of things, the impact would have been a lot less.”
To that end, Frederick said he will initiate an aggressive public relations campaign to inform the public of their insurance options, their insurance status and the overall importance of attaining insurance.
“People should be able to go to the lieutenant governor’s website and see if they’re underinsured,” he said. “We need to make things accessible. That office generates so much of the revenue for the territory, there’s no excuse for not being proactive.”
Frederick said while insurance is hugely important, it is often overlooked by residents who are quick to get renewals without properly checking their status.
Frederick said Potter should have been more responsible in his advocacy of insurance.
“They spend more time doing the ceremonial duties of the office and not enough time on the consumer duties that are required by the population and that directly touch a person’s pocketbook,” he said.
Frederick said resources and services in the Virgin Islands tend to be fragmented and increasingly difficult for residents to access.
The lieutenant governor’s office, he said, can play a big role in consolidating these areas, becoming more of a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and ensuring that the health care sector — namely, the Health Department and the hospitals — become more incorporated.
“The office should have a division that oversees health care,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot easier for the citizens to come in and access health care versus the way it’s currently set up, where it’s very fragmented and frustrating.”
Frederick said greater consolidation of the health care sector will cut down the volume of people heading into emergency rooms and allow for other, equally accessible services to accommodate them.
The business sector should follow suit, he said.
“We need to consolidate entities like the Economic Development Authority because when corporations come in, they need to find out all this information about licensing and trademarks,” he said. “That would be a perfect synergy to also share with them some of the benefits you could receive.”
Right now, he said, they’re all over the place and nobody knows why.
What else …
Frederick said one of the most important things he will push as lieutenant governor is the education of new entrepreneurs, insisting the business spirit is the “real core of our economy.”
“It pushes people to not rely on a job but to create their own jobs,” he said. “And even if they need a regular job for the benefits, at least you can make supplemental income by running your own business. The tax code here basically begs people to start their own business.”
Frederick also said he will do a complete assessment of the geographic information systems, or GIS, to see why the program has languished in development for years.
“I promise you, if I get in there, they’re going to have to explain something to me,” he said. “The problem with getting anything done in this government — from my experiences as a deputy commissioner — is that it’s all politically driven. It’s very relationship- and family-driven and competency in the Virgin Islands is just not a word you talk about a lot.”
Frederick said he and Moleto Smith Jr., the other half of his ticket, will offer something different.
“I’ve known Mr. Smith since he was deputy commissioner of Human Services and I was at the Health Department,” he said. “We worked together and I was so impressed with his work ethic. He’s like me, he’s results-driven. I would not have taken this job if it was another political crony.”