During the final week in February 2021, Member of Parliament, the Hon. Stephen Hank Johnson in a candid interview with The Eleutheran, spoke about his remaining time in office as the representative for Central and South Eleuthera, his hopes for the upcoming election, as well as some of the ongoing projects on his current slate – and a look into the future – with or without his MP title.
Ongoing and Upcoming Works
In response to being asked about ongoing and upcoming works on the island, Mr. Johnson shared an update on the current status of a number of projects, saying, “The Governor’s Harbour Clinic – the contract was signed for that three months ago. It’s now a matter of waiting on the mobilization to begin to get those repairs at the Governor’s Harbour Clinic going. Also, the road works on the Queen’s Highway are presently being done. That is going to be 11 miles of asphalt road (covering areas) from the north all the way to the south – a total of 11 miles. Certain spots are being picked to do presently, and we are hoping in the next budget the government will be able to do more, because you are looking at quite a bit of funding to do the hot mix. They are paying by the miles. So, the contract presently is $11 million for approximately 11 miles of road works – in this present contract… I think the plan is to be here for a while, to make sure Eleuthera gets a number one highway.”
Mr. Johnson, explaining the necessity of having a non-local company complete the current highway project, pointed out, “Bahama Hot Mix is here doing the works on the Queens Highway for several reasons. They are producing an asphalt finish road – which is much thicker than the current sand/seal roads, and will last much, much longer. We have no local contractors with the hot mix plant or equipment, or the know-how, so, fingers may be pointed at the company doing it, but it is not about politics. It’s about being able to get a Bahamian company capable of constructing the asphalt quality finish road. This asphalt road will last many times longer than the current sand/seal roads – so it’s about the long-term value to the island and getting the value for the money.”
Continuing with his description of ongoing works in Eleuthera, Mr. Johnson stated, “The Rock Sound main dock is almost in its final stages of being complete, and I’m very happy about that. They’ve done a good job so far. That was approximately $2.5 million initially, and there will be some additional funding added. Then the Fishermen’s dock in Rock Sound, next to St. Luke’s – that is also a part of that contract, and they’ve recently begun to mobilize work there… We are fortunate as a constituency. We’ve been able to get some things done, coming through several years of disaster. It has been very rough on the government – after Dorian, and then the pandemic. I’ve always asked for more, but I’m grateful that I’ve been able to accomplish some things.”
He continued, describing work done to formalize approximately 100 temporary workers currently in the government employment structure on the island and efforts to have some home repairs done in the constituency, saying, “The 52-week workers that are presently employed throughout Eleuthera, I’m hoping within a matter of weeks, most of them will be dispatched into other areas, where they will become permanent and pensionable. Just tonight I received the vetting they were waiting for. So, I expect in a few weeks most of them if not all of them should be taken care of. I’m very pleased about that…
We have Urban renewal as well, where every year we have been fighting to get certain roof repairs done, and every year the budget has been cut, especially with the disasters we have had. We are just about ready to do a few of the roofs earmarked for those most in need within the constituency. You can never get enough, but I’m grateful for the few we will be able to have done. I’m hoping to see those repairs mobilized shortly.”
A Passport office, said MP Johnson, is scheduled to be in Governor’s Harbour. “We have prepared the office where the Government Accounts section used to be in the Administration Building. Funding was spent on moving the Ministry of Works team that was in that section to the rear section. So, that is where the new Passport office will be going in Central Eleuthera, to service the entire island. It’s just a matter of weeks before we should have that Passport office functioning,” he informed.
In reference to development projects, Mr. Johnson commenting on the Lighthouse Point project, stated, “The Disney project has been somewhat on/off. Originally, they were ready to go, and environmental groups have pushed that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been published… and I’m hoping to see something coming out of the ground at the Disney project by June this year. That should be a $400 million plus investment in the South Eleuthera area. Once that comes off in the south, we should see quite a bit of construction employment which can help keep us afloat at this time.
“With the Philautia project at the US Naval Base, there is a hold up with some documentation. As soon as that documentation is cleared up, we are looking to them beginning to break ground at that site as well. We are also pleased with the development at the site of the old Potlatch property. They have done quite a bit of renovations there, and have added a number of villas in the rear. In the next few months, we are hoping to see the Potlatch Resort open. In the southern part of the constituency, the Cape Eleuthera Resort is open now as well… The cruise ship industry is currently on hold, but we are hoping that in the next few months we would get a green light on that as well. So, I think Eleuthera is poised to fare pretty well, with some things happening in the next few months.”
Politics and Personal
Johnson emphasized the efforts taken by the government concerning overcoming the pandemic, highlighting, “The government is working feverishly to procure the vaccines needed for the country, which will be free of charge to the public. I would also like to ask Eleutherans to be extremely careful, and to not to be complacent in following the health and safety measures. While protecting yourself, you will also protect your family and others.”
With the incumbent MP for North Eleuthera already confirmed and ratified to run as a candidate in the general election upcoming in 2022, Mr. Johnson was asked whether he was seeking to run again for Central and South Eleuthera. He responded saying, “Right now the decision is in the hands of the present government’s party officers, as to what direction I will be heading in, in the upcoming general election. It’s in the hands of the decision-makers as far as the party is concerned. If my people call on me for service, I am willing to serve. If they are not, then I will do the honourable thing.
“I’m hoping that within the next two weeks the party’s candidate’s committee, along with the leader would make a decision as to what direction we are heading in,” replied Johnson, when asked about when he expected to hear about whether he had been ratified to run in 2022.
Commenting briefly on the backlash of recent widely publicized personal incidents in January 2021, and his strategy for trying to overcome the negative perceptions, and getting past the challenge, Johnson shared, “As a man, you can only be truthful about what happened. I will say this much, and leave it there. There is no way I could have done what I have been accused of, because on the mentioned incident dates, Hank Johnson was in his constituency serving his constituents – traveling with the Deputy PM the entire day… So, there is no way I could be in New Providence committing a felon. It just didn’t happen. Police did their investigation and found it impossible, and I stand by that… I currently have no outstanding charges.”
Mr. Johnson, when asked about his plans for 2022 if he was not successful in getting the nomination for Central and South Eleuthera, he shared, “If that is the case, one would have to take his position. If successful, I will continue to serve, and if not, I will continue to play my role within my community, as a community leader. I’m certain if it happens that way, I will not take a back seat. I will continue to serve my people in other areas. Of course, I would go back into my private life role as well.”
To the question of whether he would continue to support the FNM party and campaign for the other nominee, if not ratified, Johnson was stalwart, saying, “That is a bridge I will cross when I get to it, however, I have no plans of not supporting my party. I am an FNM. I joined the Free National Movement, and I’m a person – where my word is my word. I don’t go back on my word. So, whether I am serving as the Member of Parliament or not, or as the candidate or not – I will be supporting the Free National Movement. That’s for sure.”
On the rumours of an early election being called, Johnson was asked about his thoughts. “I have no idea of that. In my personal opinion, I don’t see that happening. The Prime Minister and the government has some more work to be done. So, my thoughts are that you would get some more of that work done before calling a general election. It is up to the Prime Minister, but that is my personal opinion,” he shared.
Vision For Remaining Time
With the remaining year that he has as the representative for the Central and South Eleuthera constituency, Johnson was asked about his vision for that time, and the things he would push to see done. “There are quite a few community projects I’m looking at – for example the Rock Sound graveyard, also the sporting facility in Green Castle is another one. I’m also looking at trying to get the additional classroom facility at the Emma Cooper Primary completed, so the children would have that extra space. The dock in Palmetto Point, also getting the roads completed in the communities of Hatchet Bay, Tarpum Bay, Governor’s Harbour, Savannah Sound, and some in Rock Sound.
“The subdivision in Governor’s Harbour opposite the Royal Bank, where there is 50.44 acres of land – to get that completed – to make available house lots for the people in Governor’s. Surveyors have already been there – so, that’s one of the things we are looking at. I’m hoping the government will move swiftly in solving the crown land situation throughout the island of Eleuthera. Crown land here is an issue. The land situation in Hatchet Bay is also a burning issue, that we need to deal with so that the local residents in Hatchet Bay, James’ Cistern and the surrounding communities would be able to purchase a piece of the land at a good price, so the communities can grow. Hatchet Bay is land locked, so is Governor’s Harbour…
“Those are some of the things I’m looking at. I would also love to have upgrades done to the Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound International airports – Rock Sound needs firefighting equipment, both airstrips need repairs. Cupid’s Cay dock needs some repairs done, street lighting in many areas need to be upgraded. We still have quite a bit that needs to be done. I will push for my people.”
Johnson was asked about what message he had for his supporters if he were to secure the 2022 nomination. He shared, “I would want to say thank you to those who supported me, and say that there is hope… We’ve done remarkably well in such a short space of time. We’ve been able to move some mountains, and accomplish some things that many people before me were not able to accomplish.
“So, if all goes well, we will continue to move mountains, and make things better for the island of Eleuthera. I concentrated on bringing growth and development to the island of Eleuthera, tapping into every group of investors with the possibility of bringing development. And if elected again, I will continue to do just that, because the island needs that… I promise, if given an opportunity, to continue to serve to the best of my ability. I am proud of my track record. I’ve done my best, and went above and beyond – and will continue to do just that if given the opportunity to serve again. There were some regrets, but there were great moments as well… There is a lot more work to be done… We can do it if we come together… I’m looking forward, and I’m hopeful that I get a chance to serve again. I want to thank everyone.”