It was a rainy afternoon at the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) National Tennis Center inside the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre on Saturday, but that didn’t stop voters from coming out and throwing their overwhelming support in favor of Perry Newton as the next president of the BLTA – the governing body for tennis in the country. A last-minute legal matter trying to force the postponement of the elections fell through, allowing the elections to go on without further delay.
When it was all said and done, Newton defeated the other presidential candidate, Dyphany Mortier, by a huge 117-15 count and will spearhead the BLTA for the next two years.
“It feels really good. The Lord allowed us to pull through with the victory. I do not think it was contentious,” said Newton. “I know people get passionate, but I think I had the support of the full tennis community who came out in great numbers to support my candidacy. I know that it was something that was destined and my team and I are excited to get started with continuing to grow tennis and to push forward coming out of the COVID-19 situation.”
His entire slate also got into office, as well as Michael Butler, who was elected first vice president; Chilean Burrows, who was elected as the second vice president; John Larramore, who got in as secretary; and Timothy Dames, who was elected treasurer. Also, the assistant secretary is Cameel McDonald and Yvette Godette is the assistant treasurer – also both members of Newton’s slate of officers. Filling out the council members positions are Tara McTaggart, Everette Munroe, Bernard Clarke, Shayvon Clarke and Steve Taylor.
“It is a very strong team,” Newton said. “We have certified coaches. We have business people. We have people who have a sincere interest in growing the sport of tennis. One of the first things I learnt is, it is not so much about your accolades and educational background but it is your desire that you have and the drive that you want to help and play a positive part. I have a very positive team, like-minded individuals who put people first and I think that is one of the greatest qualities of the team that has been assembled – we put people first.”
At the last minute, they had to switch up the first vice president candidate spot as Natishka Barrett, who was running for the position, got stuck in Grand Bahama, as her flight was canceled. Barrett is the president of the Grand Bahama Tennis Association (GBTA). Butler was moved from the assistant secretary spot to the first vice president spot and McDonald moved to the assistant secretary spot from a council member position.
Newton is no stranger to the tennis fraternity in The Bahamas, having assisted the BLTA in the public relations department since 2015. In 2016, he was elected treasurer, then ran for a council member position in 2018. From 2015 to 2018, Newton was also a director on the executive board of the national tennis center, serving as treasurer for that entity under the presidency of Elwood Donaldson. After being successfully elected to the council, he was named head of junior development. He said he was not surprised by the large margin of victory.
“I am not surprised because I have been quite active in the tennis community,” Newton said. “I am head of junior development. I have been reaching out to parents of all backgrounds to bring their kids out. People are quite familiar with me; they have seen the work that I have been doing for the past couple years. I have been in schools. I host a boys club at S.C. McPherson. The tennis community knows what I have been doing. They know what my team has been doing, so they came out and supported the effort.”
The outgoing president, Darnette Weir, congratulated Newton on the victory.
“The people have spoken. There is nothing else for me to say. Perry (Newton) is a good person and he has been working over the years. I congratulate him and I am happy for him,” Weir said. “I would like to see work continuity. It can always be improved, and I also hope that persons are more united – we can be a more united force. It is okay to criticize and there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism but everybody has to get involved and just do their part and make tennis better.”
Weir said she is not moving off the tennis scene. She is the vice chairman of the National Tennis Center (NTC) and said she will also be doing community work with tennis.
Newton said he is willing to work with Mortier, citing that more hands are needed to help progress the sport of tennis in The Bahamas.
“It is about growth and development; the more hands we could get to work, the lighter the load will be,” said Newton. “I will reach out and try to find a way to see if they would be into the program that we are presenting. I know in one of her (Mortier’s) interviews, she said that she has an interest in grassroots programs and that is one of the things we are going to be pushing – community-based programs. We intend to proliferate the program that we have here at the NTC, our Play Tennis program across the communities.”
It has been a tough time for all sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Newton added that one of his main goals is to get the community-based programs restarted. He said he and his team will be working closely with the Family Islands to help them develop their programs and facilitate their need to strengthen tennis on the Out Islands.
The NTC directors are Corey Francis and Mickey Williams.