Gov. John deJongh (D)
Elected: 2006, 1st term.
John deJongh, a Democrat, has been governor of the Virgin Islands since 2006. DeJongh (dee YOUNG) grew up in St. Thomas and in Detroit and attended Antioch College. He returned to St. Thomas, worked on the Tri-Island Development Council’s historic redevelopment projects, then ran all consumer banking for Chase Bank in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten. From 1987 to 1990, he was commissioner of finance and headed the U.S. Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority. From 1990 to 1992, he was executive assistant to Democratic Gov. Alexander Farrelly. For the next dozen years, he worked in the private sector in the Virgin Islands, including a stint as president of the chamber of commerce.
In 2002, deJongh ran for governor as an independent and finished second to incumbent Democratic Gov. Charles Turnbull, nearly forcing Turnbull into a runoff. Turnbull was term-limited in 2006, after eight years dealing with the Virgin Islands’ massive financial problems. This was a close race. On the first ballot, deJongh was just two votes short of winning the required absolute majority. In a runoff, he defeated Republican Kenneth Mapp 57%-43%. To try to help cover the government’s large deficit, deJongh sought in 2007 to revamp residential property taxes. The resulting bill eliminated the territory’s single tax rate that had been used on all property since 1936 and established four property classes with a different tax rate for each. The new system was expected to increase property tax revenues, but lawsuits against the law were still pending in early 2009.