Emma Hippolyte is the Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment, and Consumer Affairs in St. Lucia. Unlike many other politicians, she is not ashamed to allow her Christian and Family values guide her decision making process. Kreol discusses her personal and professional life.
The modern world is full of politicians who forget what the responsibilities of the role really are. In modern democracies, politicians are elected to serve as a voice of the people and to represent their interests on the national stage. Far too often, these politicians are corrupted by money and their own agendas. For Emma Hippolyte, the Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment, and Consumer Affairs in St. Lucia, keeping a focus on her faith guides her goals as she serves the people of the Gros Islet constituency.
Family Values Instilled Early
It is hard not to have family values instilled at an early age when one grows up in a large family. Minister Hippolyte was the fifth of twelve children. Her parents were both entrepreneurs who ran small businesses in the family’s hometown of Soufriere, nestled along the southern coast of St. Lucia. As a young child she attended infant, primary, and secondary school in her hometown. She would eventually move to the capital of St. Lucia, Castries, for technical school.
Throughout her youth, she served as a unifying force in her family. She admits that her parents were responsible for giving her the drive and determination that has propelled her career, both professionally and politically. It was the entrepreneurial spirit of her parents that gave her the determination to push ahead in the face of adversity that helped her succeed in the early years of her career.
Early Career and Entry into Politics
After completing two years of study in technical school, Minister Hippolyte took on a secretarial position with one of St. Lucia’s largest auditing firms. Eventually she was given a chance to work as an auditor within the firm, handling the accounts of some of the biggest businesses in the country. Her experience as an accountant and auditor gave her unique insight into the industries that played significant roles in St. Lucia’s economy, particularly the banking sector. After a successful period in that firm Minister Hippolyte took the next step in her career and joined the Bank of St. Lucia (then known as National Commerce Bank), also engaged as an auditor.
It was in this role that she would face the first test of her professional skills and personal faith. The government of St. Lucia tapped her to participate in a project with the Canadian government. She took on the role of Assistant Accountant to the Auditor General. Her first report as a member of the project did not meet with positive reviews. Following a brief stint in her auditing role, her contract to participate in the project was not renewed.
Following her departure from the government project, Minister Hippolyte managed a local bank branch in Rosalay for the Bank of St. Lucia. After a few years in that position she was offered a unique opportunity with the United Nations (UN) to work with its food and agriculture group in Rome. From 1995 to 1998 she lived and worked in Rome, eventually rising to the position of Senior Auditor at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The pull of her island home was too strong to ignore after a few years in Rome, and when the new government in St. Lucia head hunted her, she responded positively. At the request of a former colleague, now a member of the governing St. Lucia Labour Party, she returned to her Caribbean home to serve in the national insurance group for the new government.
After nine years in that position, Minister Hippolyte made her first foray into politics as a member of the St. Lucian Senate in 2007. She served as a senator from 2007 to 2010 before taking on a new role in politics as a parliamentary representative. She was elected as a representative of Gros Islet for the Labour Party and, as of the 2011 general election, now serves as the Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment, and Consumer Affairs.
Faith and Family
Minister Hippolyte is not ashamed to let her Christian values shine through in her work. She admits it is hard to balance her values with the letter of the law. However, she works tirelessly to ensure that the decisions she makes as a politician are guided by her Christian faith, while respecting the constraints of St. Lucian law. One of her proudest achievements as a politician was also one of her simplest.
Recently a woman came to her office complaining of a lack of proper housing. The woman had become lost in the government system in her effort to recoup money owed to her upon the death of her husband. Without that money, the woman could not afford improvements to the windows and doors on her home, many of which had broken. Minister Hippolyte helped the woman navigate through the red tape and start the process to ensure she would receive the pension she had been denied in the four years following her husband’s death.
Minister Hippolyte will be the first to say that it is not always a nationally relevant issue that changes the lives of ordinary St. Lucians, but adherence to her Christian values allows her to focus on issues key to individuals and society as a whole.
Another major factor that drives Minister Hippolyte are her family values. Though she was not the oldest of her 12 siblings, she is the force that holds them together now that her parents are gone. Her brothers and sisters have blessed Minister Hippolyte, a single woman, with 45 nieces and nephews! Whenever she can accommodate, there are children from her family in her home, bringing light into her life.
She works hard each and every day to ensure that, with no children of her own, her constituents receive all the parental devotion and dedication she has to offer. The 25,000 constituents in Gros Islet are Minister Hippolyte’s children, and she strives to create a better life for them and all St. Lucians through her tireless efforts in the realm of politics.
The Minister hasn’t decided whether to run for office again in 2016 when her current term ends, but if she does she will be hoping to continue to focus her work on improving the small business environment in St. Lucia. Whatever she does going forward, Minister Hippolyte will be looking to her Christian faith and family values to give her the strength and determination to carry on.