Barber Troy Astwood says Dr. Ewart Brown has been a strong leader who has ‘made changes for average working people’. *Photo by Simon Jones
Barber Troy Astwood says Dr. Ewart Brown has been a strong leader who has ‘made changes for average working people’. *Photo by Simon Jones
Amid the hustle, bustle and chatter of the Court Street barbershops, there is an air of suppressed sadness at the departure of Premier Ewart Brown.

Many see him as their man — a strong Bermudian who took on the old guard, no matter what the consequences.

In the eyes of some he dared to push for change and give the Average Joe on the corner a better life.

But not everything Dr. Brown has done has been fully embraced by those who were having a trim when the Bermuda Sun dropped by. His decision to bring in the Uyghurs and furnish them with jobs sparked resentment that is palpable to this day. Similarly, national debt is a subject of strong concern.

In short, the people are divided on whether Dr. Brown was a strong and effective leader or an arrogant maverick.

Troy Astwood, who runs the Kim Kita’s Barber Shop, fears Dr. Brown’s would-be successors don’t have the strength of character he sees in Dr. Brown.

“He has made change,” Mr. Astwood said, “and I like change. It has been change for the better — whether it’s the ferries or buses for schoolchildren.

“He has helped average working people — people who pay rent. Dr. Brown has been prepared to take licks for the things he believes in and a lot of people love him.

“He is viewed as a strong-headed person — he does not mess around — and that is what Bermuda needs. I would rather stick with Brown than bring in any of the others in — I just liked his connection to the outside world.”

Over at the Universal Barber Shop, Harold Minors believes Bermuda needs someone like Dr. Brown at the helm and thinks he has drawn strong support by his aggressive attitude to getting things done.

Mr. Minors maintains the Premier will be remembered as someone who “helped the average man…

He is a very confident person and I think some people have mistaken that for arrogance,” he said.

“He has done a lot of good for the country and not shied away from the big decisions. He has stepped on a lot of toes but a lot of them may have need to be stepped on. He has got things moving and has been a strong leader.

Change

“He took on the system and tried to change things for the better. But I also believe there are a lot of unanswered questions — a lot of things seem to have been done covertly and Bermudians like to know what is going on and see how things come about.

“But he has made things happen; if you have got to wait for public approval and everyone to get on board, things would never happen in Bermuda.”

Denise Chambers, hairdresser at Universal, says Dr. Brown‘s decision to allow the Uyghurs to come here is a frequent topic of conversation in the shop.

“A lot of people still seem to be angry about this — that they were given jobs and Bermudian people were still looking for work,” she said.

“And people are worried that he has not done enough to fight crime. It seems to me that half of the people we see are happy with what he has done and the other half are not — there is a fairly even split.”

Thelma Allen of Pembroke believes the outgoing Premier has “done his best… He will be remembered in a positive way — he has done a lot for black people and the tourism industry in Bermuda.

“He has been criticized extensively and some of it has been valid. But I genuinely think he has had Bermuda at the heart of all his decisions.”

Clearly, though, Dr. Brown has not captured the hearts and minds of everyone.

Aaron Walls believes Bermuda now needs a change.

The 41-year-old from Warwick smiles as he says “I’m glad he is leaving”.

He adds: “Dr Brown has done a good bit for Bermuda but his tenure has also left a bad taste in my mouth. He has made decisions on his own without consulting any of his colleagues - like the Uyghurs and Southlands — and people will remember that about him.

“But having said that, I believe the Mirrors programme is changing people’s lives. Dr. Brown is Bermuda to the bone but he should have done more in the area of policing and I have not noticed much change in health care. He has left some big gaps in my honest view.

“In the last part of his time there has been a growing dislike amongst some for the way he has spent taxpayers’ money. And instead of him taking the blame for things, he has pointed the finger elsewhere and looked for excuses.”

Roger Williams candidly opens his appraisal by stating “he has made some stupid decisions… People will remember the negative things — they always do.

“I don’t believe this government has kept the budget intact — I think his biggest claim to fame will be the budget deficit.”

But the 42-year-old from Somerset still says Bermuda is in a stronger position now than when Dr. Brown took over.

He adds: “There’s a lot of projects still outstanding, like a new Causeway, but that is not to say he has not tried to achieve a lot in his time.”