Teri Helenese became involved in her profession because, for as long as she could remember, she had been much attuned to civil rights and social matters. She always considered herself an agent of change and often participated in highly impactful projects with the goal of uplifting others in mind. Since it proved to be a very natural progression, she went on to pursue a career in the field of civil work. She received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Florida Memorial College, and a Master of Arts in political management from George Washington University. Ms. Helenese commenced her private sector career at Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior consultant, and eventually transitioned to such companies as Deloitte, Diageo and International SOS.
Ms. Helenese presently serves in the Office of the Governor as the U.S. Virgin Islands’ director of state-federal relations and Washington representative, reporting directly to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. In that capacity, she devotes significant time, talent, and energy to economic stimulus and development, technology adoption and public policy in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the islands in 2017.
Among Ms. Helenese’s top achievements as a key member of Gov. Bryan’s office, she spearheaded the effort to bring DC United, Washington’s professional men’s soccer team, to St. Croix for an exhibition game – an all-time first. She also facilitated another first – a collaborative effort on the part of the governors of the five U.S. territories to lobby Congress to extend Medicaid funding beyond the “fiscal cliff” that loomed in September 2019. More recently, Ms. Helenese invited Black bank chief executive officers and owners on the U.S. mainland to consider relocating all or part of their banks’ business to the U.S. Virgin Islands. As one of five U.S. territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands is the only location under the American flag where Black people own and operate the majority of businesses and occupy leadership positions in both government and the private sector. If successful, the #BankBlackVI initiative will bring lasting benefits to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ms. Helenese was also appointed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s African American advisory board. The board was established in order to strengthen the relationship between the African American community and the state government through effective policymaking. In her position on the board, Ms. Helenese has aimed to improve diversity and inclusion in public schools both locally and statewide. In her career, she has gained expertise in information technology, business technology, human resources, strategic communications and organizational change. For her accomplishments in the field, she was awarded the Creating Possibilities Award from Diageo USVI in 2012.
In a career suffused with highlights, Ms. Helenese has been most proud of her work with Deloitte, which ultimately set her career in motion. In the aftermath of 9/11, she served as a consultant with Deloitte and worked with the team that led the successful deployment of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). She was later given the title of a TWIC ambassador, where she traveled to 37 states to brief employers, unions, Coast Guard officials and other stakeholders on the new credentialing process, and enrolling 2 million workers in this first-of-its-kind smartcard program. With 15 million enrollees today, the TWIC program laid the groundwork for future national security initiatives.
Another highlight of Ms. Helenese’s career was when she was relocated to St. Croix from Washington as part of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ “Reverse the Brain Drain” program. During that period, she held the position of human resources director at Diageo’s Captain Morgan Rum Distillery. By the end of her tenure there, 97% of the company’s hires were from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ms. Helenese felt proud to boost employment among her fellow Virgin Islanders, effectively, lifting Virgin Islanders and helping to “reverse the brain drain.”