Colleagues hail respected St Elizabeth Councillor Vinceroy Blake

BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Vinceroy Blake, the late, former councillor representing the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the Lacovia Division, is being remembered by his peers as a vibrant, jovial, dedicated legislator who abhorred political tribalism.

Blake, a 63-year-old retired educator and justice of the peace, died on June 2 in hospital following a massive stroke late last month. He served as councillor for four years, 2012-2016.

At last Thursday’s monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, councillors stood for a moment’s silence in honour of Blake.

In subsequent interviews with the Jamaica Observer, mayor of Black River and chairman of the corporation Derrick Sangster (JLP), former Mayor Jeremy Palmer (JLP, Southfield Division), former Mayor Everton Fisher of the Opposition People’s National Party (Balaclava Division), and Cetany Holness (JLP, Junction Division) paid rich tribute to their fallen former colleague.

A chuckling Holness recalled that when Blake first entered the council in 2012 he quickly made it known that he was “new and different” and had no patience for political divisiveness. According to Holness, Blake even reprimanded colleagues whom he felt had crossed the line in terms of what he perceived to be political opportunism.

“Vinceroy left a legacy and the council will follow…” said Holness.

Fisher, who served as mayor of Black River and chairman of the council during the period Blake was councillor, agreed with Holness.

“I got a lot of support from him…He was very cooperative regardless of political differences, a very decent person and very professional,” said Fisher.

Palmer, the minority leader during Blake’s four-year stint, spoke of a man who promoted “a great sense of unity within the council and was never divisive”. That apart, Palmer said Blake was “always on the ball regarding issues affecting his division” and also saw his role as an agent of development across the parish.

“He was very committed to education,” said Palmer.

Sangster, who represents the Mountainside Division for the JLP, described Blake as a “very good councillor” who “spoke out a lot” about issues in the Lacovia Division and was active in the promotion and organisation of sports, especially football and entertainment events.

All agreed that Blake was constantly on the lookout in defence of small business people who needed help to secure entertainment permits — often taking on the responsibility to help with paperwork.

“He was an excellent councillor who cared about his division — his people came first and foremost,” said Holness, who also hailed Blake as “a man full of life… ever ready to enjoy himself”.

JC Hutchinson, who has represented the JLP as Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Western — the constituency in which Lacovia falls — since 1997, told the Observer that long before his entry into representational politics Blake was an active organiser and coach of Tafari Football Club.

The parliamentarian said Blake played a prominent role in “extra-curricular activities” in the Lacovia Division including community cook-outs and dances.

“He was a community man,” said Hutchinson.

As an educator, Blake — who retired last year — served for 14 years as principal of Hopeton Primary School in remote Hopeton, on the south-eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Declining student numbers led to the closure of the small primary school a decade ago.

Either side of his time at Hopeton Primary, and up to his retirement, Blake taught entrepreneurial and business-related subjects at St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz.