In a farewell speech to aspiring Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidates, former Minister of Education and former Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald announced that he will no longer run in another general election.
“My political journey has afforded me a multiplicity of experiences and emotions,” Fitzgerald told party supporters in Marathon on Monday night.
“It’s been active and exciting, rewarding and painful, dynamic and challenging, but most of all, it’s been gratifying.
“But as with many great things, they must at some point come to an end, and my season of vying for a nomination to represent a constituency for the great Progressive Liberal Party came to an end on May 10, 2017.
“I have spent 15 years in public life, in service to my country.”
Fitzgerald chronicled some of the work he has done while in office, specifically pointing to his service as deputy chairman of the then College of The Bahamas in 2002, his Senate appointment in 2007, and being elected as a member of Parliament in 2012 and his appointment as minister of education that same year.
“People say politics is an ungrateful profession. I disagree,” he added.
“Those who enter politics should enter to serve, plain and simple.
“My reward has always been knowing that through my actions and decisions I assisted those who needed my help – both expressed and otherwise.”
He continued to thank his supporters in Marathon, his family, friends, senior leadership in the Ministry of Education and former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
“To the former Prime Minister Perry Christie, who is like a father to me, I want to say thank you for all the advice, support and confidence you bestowed in me generally, but particularly with the Ministry of Education and being a part of the Baha Mar negotiating team that led to the successful opening of Baha Mar which has positively impacted thousands of Bahamian families and businesses,” he said.
Fitzgerald’s last term was littered with scandal and criticism.
These included the 2015 revelation that the government took more than a year to make public a 2014 Black & Veatch report on a gas leak from the Rubis service station on Robinson Road, in his constituency, that warned of possible health risks to people who live and work in the area.
Fitzgerald knew of the report, but said he did not make it public as it was before Cabinet.
In March 2016, Fitzgerald read and tabled an e-mail thread from Save the Bays members in the House of Assembly that referenced a murder-for-hire plot involving Canadian fashion tycoon Peter Nygard and members of Save the Bays.
He claimed he got the private e-mails from his “political garbage can”.
A subsequent lawsuit led to tension between Parliament and the judiciary.
Another major scandal broke on Nomination Day 2017 when the Tribune revealed, in a series of e-mails between Fitzgerald and then Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian dating back to 2013, that Fitzgerald lobbied Izmirlian for brokerage, trucking and limousine contracts, telling Izmirlian the matter required his “personal intervention”.
Fitzgerald was voted out of office by 306 votes.
As he closed out his goodbyes on Monday, Fitzgerald endorsed Philip Brave Davis as PLP leader and offered advice to new candidates.
“My advice is simple,” he said. “Remember this is a sacrifice of time, treasure and talent. It is a commitment of service above self. The road will not always be easy, but never lose sight of the fact that you are here to make a meaningful contribution to both Marathon and our wider Bahamaland. As with any meaningful career, work with strategy and diligence, keep your commitments and for goodness sake refrain from making empty promises.”