After almost a decade as the representative for West Bay South and Minister of Government across two terms, Tara Rivers, is hanging upon her political boots and stepping away from politics.
Although rumoured for the past few days, the confirmation came in a press conference called by the departing MP and Minister at a joint press conference on Wednesday with Premier Alden McLaughlin.
Ms Rivers served as an independent in the Premier’s People’s Progressive Movement(PPM)-led administration in two ministries during her two terms in government.
She said her reason for stepping down from active politics was in line with a commitment she had given her West Bay South constituents to serve two terms and a personal choice not to be a career politician.
“I believe it’s time to continue my journey creating new opportunities for growth and development. A political life is about service, and serving the country has been a personal calling and my duty and an absolute honour. This is why my decision to not continue as an elected official beyond this term has weighed so heavily on my mind and my heart,” she said.
“I know that many of you will be extremely sad and concerned to hear that I will not be standing for reelection. Please rest assured that my decision was not taken lightly or made easily,” she said, adding that she “had never intended to become a career politician.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin while regretting her departure, lauded Ms Rivers for her accomplishments both as a constituency representative and her ministerial achievements.
“While I am deeply saddened to learn that Minister Rivers is retiring from politics, I want to commend her for leaving on her own terms, which politicians rarely do,” the Premier said.
“It has been an immense privilege having Minister Rivers serve in my Cabinet for two consecutive terms. I will forever be grateful to her for her brilliant service to the Cayman Islands. Tara Rivers has made history and has certainly broken the mold in West Bay politics. Because of her tremendous service, our country is now stronger and more poised for the future.”
Mr McLaughlin refused to be drawn as to who he had in mind, if anybody, to fill the void left by Ms Rivers’ departure, although he confirmed that discussions with potential partners is ongoing.
Although having campaigned and won her seat as an independent candidate in May 2013, Minister Rivers was offered a position as a Cabinet Minister by the Premier, becoming the first independent MLA to be offered such a position since the formal (re)introduction of party politics in the Cayman Islands in early 2000s. Despite being a first-term Minister, she chose to take responsibility for some of the most challenging portfolios of the day, namely Education, Employment and Gender Affairs.
In the 2017 General Elections, Minister Rivers once again broke the political mold by becoming the first Cabinet Minister to successfully be reelected after serving as a first-term Minister. She comfortably won her seat with roughly 54% of the votes cast that year, becoming the first MLA (later MP) to represent the constituency of West Bay South. She was once again asked by the Premier to serve in Cabinet, this time assuming the important role of Minister of Financial Services and Home Affairs.
Asked by Ralph Lewis of the Caymanian Times about her experience as an Independent representative working alongside members of a party, Ms. Rivers answered by saying that, once you are given a position as a government minister, differences surrounding parties take second place to getting the job done.
“You put your differences aside,” she said. “As an independent, I’ve always been forthright in delivering my views.”
When asked about the future, Minister Rivers noted that, “Although today’s announcement represents an end of an era - at least for now – there are many exciting prospects ahead, including the ability to continue to serve my country, albeit in a different capacity.
“I am deeply indebted to the people of West Bay, and more recently West Bay South, for their continued faith and support, and for the opportunity to serve as their Member of Parliament, and for convincingly choosing me to do so in 2013 and again in 2017. I am committed to working to ensure that West Bay South will continue to have solid leadership that we can trust,” she stated.