MEETING – PORTRAIT: Vincent Berton: “It takes endurance to be a prefect”


The prefect delegated to the State representative in the Communities of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy took office on March 28, 2022. After having taken on this role for already a year and a half, Vincent Berton welcomes us to return to this journey and its attachment to the territory.

Before his post in Saint-Martin, the trained sailor, originally from Lorient in Morbihan, was secretary general of the Hauts-de-Seine Prefecture. Prefect Vincent Berton was appointed by decree on March 9, 2022, following the departure of prefect Serge Gouteyron: “My first position as prefect is a very special position since Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy are unique in the territory of the Republic, there is no equivalent, nor any other binational island as we know it here.” The bi-nationality of Saint-Martin and the positioning of the two sister islands at the gateway to North America are two characteristics which appeal to the politician who will soon celebrate his 57th birthday: “I thrive a lot because of the size islander that I knew when I was stationed in Corsica”.

With a first career in the French Navy as a commander on warships and his plethora of travels, Vincent Berton appreciates discovery, multi-culturalities and the diversity of situations whose sometimes complex management is a challenge that he takes on. always with pleasure: “I have been prefect here for a year and a half and I am in no hurry to leave even if it is not me who decides but the President of the Republic, we know this very well when we takes this position, we do not own the lease. As far as I am concerned, I will be very happy to be able to act in the long term in Saint-Martin because I think that we have initiated a lot of things that are going in the right direction, we must go to the realization, we we really need.”

If all the projects underway in Saint-Martin are close to his heart, Vincent Berton pays particular attention, in conjunction with the COM, to cross-border cooperation with Sint Maarten, notably with the creation of a security cooperation center in Cole Bay. , the sharing of infrastructures (schools, hospitals, waste treatment) or even access to water in situations of shortage.

The other major aspect for the person concerned concerns young people and questions of academic success and integration with a desire to offer the youth of Saint-Martin the tools to flourish: development of bilingualism and the offer of training, the creation of reinforced educational structures such as the boarding school of excellence or even education through art and culture, revealing talents: “Art is therapy, I push open doors, but it’s also a way of resocializing, reconnecting with the world and society, at a time when we have this problem of desacralization of young people linked to the virtual world and social networks.”

Concerning youth, Vincent Berton delivers a strong message: “I think that what a young person does not realize, whether he is from Saint-Martin or French, is the attention that we can give to him when we is at my level of responsibility. This is something they don't perceive at all. I didn't realize it when I was their age. However, we are very attentive. It is the young people who make the heart of this region beat first and foremost.”

Delighted with the future full-fledged prefecture which marks the strengthening of the State's resources on the two sister islands and their respective autonomy, Vincent Berton does not have the impression of having yet explored the reality of Saint-Martin : “I don't have at all the feeling of routine, of repetition, of seeing the same people who always tell me the same thing, even though it's a bit of a risk in a small territory, I always discover something” . Besides the frustration of administrative slowness, Vincent Berton sincerely believes that it is wise not to want to go too quickly to do things in depth: “Being a prefect is not doing Formula 1, I don't I'm not alone and we have to try to get everyone on board, force may be necessary in a crisis situation but when we manage long-term projects, we need endurance, wisdom and humility.” Finally, this great lover of swimming and literature concluded our interview by playing the game of summarizing Saint-Martin in three words, in a way as poetic as symbolic: “vibrations, azure and horizon”. Worthy of a prefect whose gaze is always towards the future. _VX

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