Island Profile: St. Thomas Source

About a week before Thanksgiving, Tom Bolt got a call from the Salvation Army informing him there were “no turkeys.” That’s when Bolt got to work. In less than a shake of a turkey’s tail, Bolt, the organization’s board chair, says, “We sent out letters, phone calls to local retailers.” Soon the turkeys came home to roost or roast—including 20 roasted and donated by Frenchman’s Reef

Bolt, who arrived on St. Thomas from South Carolina in the early ’80s, comes from a long Southern tradition of giving.

Since arriving, his voice hasn’t been stilled by anyone, excepting the formidable Sen. Ruby Rouss, who set him straight early on.

“That was a baptism by fire,” he laughs.

After graduating from South Carolina School of Law in 1982 with a degree in jurisprudence, Bolt worked for Dick Reilly, who became the Secretary of Education under Clinton. He was vice chair of the Democratic party then.

“I didn’t know what to do next,” Bolt says. “I’d worked in our family law firm since seventh grade, delivering the mail and emptying trash cans. I thought, let me see if I can do something on my own.”

“My grandfather had been on St. Thomas during the Navy administration, and I had cousins here who said I ought to come down. I thought I’d be assistant counsel to then Gov. Juan Luis, but I ended up as counsel to the Legislature. That was in 1982. I was there almost 10 years before going into private practice.”

It was 10 years Bolt will never forget. “When I got to the legislature, Ruby [Rouss] told me right off, ‘You can forget everything they taught you in law school. I’m going to teach you to be a lawyer.'”

The two discovered they had a lot in common; neither being known for hiding their light beneath a bushel.

One of his first lessons was deleting the phrase, “I believe,” from his vocabulary. “She would say, ‘I don’t care what you believe; I want the facts,'” Bolt says.

The two formed a close friendship. “She was a statesman,” Bolt says. “She cared about people and tried to affect a change in their lives. Together, we got the Carambola rezoning on St. Croix approved; after the Legislature turned down the multimillion-dollar investment, we had a protest march.”

In 1991 Bolt struck out on his own, opening Tom Bolt and Associates – now BoltNagi PC – of which he is the managing partner. Bolt chairs the firm’s Government Relations Practice Group and is a member of the its Corporate & Financial Services Group.

It’s not hard to nail down Bolt’s professional life, but it is exhausting to condense it. Bolt doesn’t know the meaning of sitting still, professionally or in community activities.

He served for 10 years as the representative of the V.I. Bar Association. Subsequently, during his term as president of the local bar, he was elected as an at-large delegate to the American Bar Association, where he still serves.

This is just for openers.

Bolt takes most professional pride in the work he has done on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, where he has served as commissioner since 1998. “Here we are a little territory, but we have been heard throughout the U.S.,” he says.

It’s hard to say where his heart lies in community work. “The strength of the community is in its people, reaching out for a common goal, so much can be accomplished,” he says. “One thing I do is lots of strategic planning, getting the community together to identify issues, develop a plan.”

Bolt has served as president of the Habitat for Humanity of the V.I., as founding trustee of the Children’s Trust of the V.I., and he established the Salvation Army board four years ago. A longtime Rotarian, Bolt also founded Rotary Club of St. Thomas Sunrise in 2003.

Bolt forgets all the above to speak about someone who means everything to him: his wife, Jeni. “She is my partner, the love of my life. We’d been dating since 1983, and we got married in 1989.”

He adds with a laugh, “It was put up or shut up. She’s made everything possible. She is administrator of our firm. She’s president of the Family Resource Center, and I’ve been there for her.”

And, if he had the choice what would he come back as in his next life?

It didn’t take Bolt a minute. “I’ve enjoyed my life so much, I’d like to come back as myself and do it all over again,” he says.

“You know, so many people aren’t happy with what they do. People have options, you know. I can’t wait to get out of bed to see what the day will bring, if I can make a difference doing something to help people.”

Island Profile: Tom Bolt
St. Thomas Source November 29,2010
Cheryl Rink

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