Following the retirement of South Abaco’s former Administrator, Joshua Smith, last year after a short tenure, the post was temporarily filled by administrator for Central Abaco, Preston Cunningham, who had the arduous task of administrating both large districts.
In November 2013, Lavon Harris-Smith arrived to take up the post as Administrator for South Abaco following six months of service in Mayaguana.
She has been very busy during the first few months finalizing unfinished projects and doing a lot of driving to visit the various townships within her district which covers Cherokee Sound, Casuarina Point, Bahama Palm Shores, Crossing Rocks and Sandy Point on the mainland as well as Moore’s Island which she visits once a month.
Ms. Harris-Smith is no stranger to Abaco since her first posting as an Island Administrator was to Green Turtle Cay as Administrator for the North, a post she held for one and a half years.
Ms. Harris- Smith’s position as Island Administrator comes after many years of dedicated employment in many departments of the Public Service. She joined the public service in 1984 as a trainee marketing officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries where, after six months, she was seconded to BAIC where she worked as project officer for nine years.
After working a year in the Office of the Prime Minister she was then transferred to the Ministry of Finance and Planning in the Revenue Administration Department and, during the next 18 years, worked her way up to the position of First Assistant Secretary. By September of this year she will have completed 30 years of government service.
In 2008 Ms. Harris Smith began feeling the desire to become an Island administrator and so she applied in 2010. She was called into training for six months and then received a posting to Green Turtle Cay in 2011.
Ms. Harris- Smith says that she enjoyed her work in Green Turtle Cay very much, the people were very nice and the council easy to work with.
“We were able to do a lot of work in the community, complete many projects and carry out a lot of hurricane repairs. My posting as Island Administrator for the North also necessitated me working two days a week in Coopers Town and I liked working in both these districts,” she stated.
Ms. Harris Smith says she has found it quite interesting taking up a position at the opposite end of the island and has found that, “The North and South bring two different flavours. The people have been very welcoming, they are very industrious and entrepreneurial and there are a lot of good cooks,” she says. “I am enjoying my postings as Island Administrator very much as I am in a position to help more people than when I was working in a government office. I love to help people and help communities achieve their goals. I want to leave a positive and lasting effect where ever I go,” she says.
Ms. Harris Smith has noted that there is a lot of room for growth in all areas of South Abaco and she feels that there are many opportunities there to be explored and taken advantage of. For example, the Disney cruise ship which comes into Gorda Cay several times a week could provide opportunities for local residents to create tours and take visitors to various environmentally touristic sites which could be developed such as Hole in the Wall, the mangroves and the South Abaco National Park.
She also feels that there is an excellent market for handicraft development in the area and would like to see this taken more seriously. “The area is abundant in silver palm for straw work and shells and sea glass for jewellery. We need to be competitive with other countries and cannot sit back and wait for government do everything for us,” she advises.
Beautification of the entranceways leading into Sandy Point and Crossing Rocks are improvements Ms. Harris Smith would like to see as she feels facelifts are needed. Also, she feels that Hard Bargain on Moore’s Island needs beautification and the airport which has been very much neglected needs major attention.
Ms. Harris Smith feels a responsibility towards the children and feels that there is limited growth for social development for children in the South apart from church. The Naomi Lightbourne library in Sandy Point, which was commissioned in 2013, will be the recipient of numerous books from the Urban Renewal community.
The library will also be receiving assistance from the library section of the Ministry of Education who will be helping with staffing and the setting up of the library. This is very pleasing to Ms. Harris-Smith since she says; “I would like to see young people read more; reading is a gate to the universe and helps produce creative minds.”