January 1st, 2005
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] Mayor Eddie Tatum, 37, was born and educated on Guanaja. Before being elected to his first public office as Guanaja’s Mayor, Tatum has worked managing his family’s dry-dock and freight service businesses. He is married and has two children. In the 2005 elections, he decided to run for a ‘suplente’ to congress. Now two main candidates, Audly Philips and Richmond Hearston, are running to take his place as Mayor of Guanaja. Bay Islands VOICE talked to Mayor Tatum about the trials and tribulations of being a mayor of the island that fell behind and is trying to catch up.

v3-1-Interview-Mr. Tatum
Bay Islands VOICE: What are your accomplishments while in office?
Mayor Eddie Tatum: We are quite proud of how transparent we have run the municipality. What has been frustrating is the projects that we haven’t been able to realize yet. The road project for example. We haven’t received the support, monetary support, of the central government that we were due.
B.I.V.: Is there a specific route for the road project at this point?
E.T.: There has been a study done on the north side of the island: connecting Savannah Bight to Mangrove Bight and moving along the north part of the island to the airport. Personally, I think that is the right place for it to go. The north side of the island is the most beautiful part of the island. We need to develop tourism and we need to put in the right infrastructure.
B.I.V.: What kind of tourism do you see developing on Guanaja?
E.T.: We want to focus of the ‘upper-class’ tourism. We don’t focus so much on the backpacker tourism. No offence, but with the fragility of the Bay Islands we need to focus not on the quantity, but on quality. (…) We hardly had any success with that. Our main problem is the lack of proper infrastructure. We need to prepare ourselves for tourism first. We need to have a nice road system, nice garbage collection system, sewer system. (…) Since the Hurricane Mitch, tourism on Guanaja had dropped. We feel that we were victims of the central government who first said Guanaja was so devastated, but then they never went back to see how we were recovering. Last administration used us to get aid for the country, but none of the aid went into Guanaja.
B.I.V.: Still, until the 1960s, Guanaja was the most prosperous island of the archipelago.
E.T.: Guanaja was a pioneer in the Bay Islands. We started the fishing industry, the tourism industry; we even had the airport on Guanaja before Roatan [did]. Population concentrated on the small cays and that has caused the setback of Guanaja. We did not worry about getting infrastructure, a road system. We were confused, people were saying ‘let’s stay unique,’ but now most everybody has learned that unique doesn’t work. We have to come on par with the rest of the world.
B.I.V.: What about a regular passenger boat between Guanaja and the mainland, or even Roatan?
E.T.: I am not so sure we need this type of facility. Many of the investors here complain about the growth of the population, Roatan being so easy to get to. We don’t want to make the same type of mistake on Guanaja. If we had implemented that kind of service, we would get a lot more people.
B.I.V.: What portions of the proposed law [Article 107] has the biggest implications for Guanaja?
E.T.: Actually, there isn’t much of the law that has implications on Guanaja. We have good beaches to develop and I’m in favor of ‘no artificial beaches.’ We have seen it being tried and it hasn’t worked as expected. It’s better to leave nature as it is.
B.I.V.: Do you have any advice for the next mayor of Guanaja?
E.T.: Don’t get your bubble blown-up so big, so when it gets popped [its easy to get-up and keep on going.] There were big expectations for a lot of support, but it has been to the contrary. [/private]

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