April 13th, 1952 – John M. Jarvis was born to Walter and Camelita Jarvis from Ottos and Green Bay respectively. Initially, he moved between the communities his parents were from, however, eventually, the family settled on Newgate Street while Jarvis was still a young child. Some years later, they moved to Villa where he remained into his adult years.
Jarvis’ early education began at the Spring Gardens Moravian School before he was later moved, at the behest of his grandmother, to Pilgrim High School. Sometime after he was transferred to the Faith and Hope High School. It was during this time that a recommendation was made to his parents by the then Principal of Princess Margaret Secondary School (PMS), Basil Peters, to enrol him in the St. John’s Boys’ School where he could sit the Government’s Post Primary Examination and gain entry into PMS where he completed his secondary education.
Upon leaving school, Jarvis found work as an insurance salesman before going off on scholarship to complete tertiary studies at the University of the West Indies – Mona Campus, Jamaica. When he returned to Antigua in 1974, he was appointed as a social worker within the Ministry of Education.
During this time, Jarvis became involved with the regional black power movement known as the ‘Caribbean Assembly,’ which was headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago, This movement encouraged himself and other young persons within that era to be quite vocal on issues of the day.
Some time between 1977 and 1978, Jarvis joined the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Antigua. The organisation played a key role in his development as a young man providing vital and timely training in areas of leadership and professional development. He would go on to serve as President of JCI Antigua twice and currently holds the office of a JCI Senator.
He also served as a member of the Antigua Barbuda Red Cross.
Jarvis left his post at the Ministry of Education in 1989 and served briefly as a Price Control Officer before being transferred back to the Welfare Division to serve once more in the capacity of welfare officer.
In 1989 Jarvis took on the mantle to serve as Chairman of Carnival having previously contributed to his country’s largest and most significant festival in a variety of ways over the years. His service included coordinating children’s carnival and calypso committees. He counts among his best moments introducing acts such as ‘Smarty Jr.’ to the big stage as a young boy.
Following his four year stint as Chairman of Carnival, he went on to serve within the Cooperative Department of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda which, at the time, was responsible for regulating the operations of credit unions within the state. He would go on to devote over 30 years of his professional life to this sector and, in this capacity, he was able to effect transformation within this sector through the technical support provided in amending the much outdated Cooperative Societies Act which was from the 1950’s. One of the tenets of the newly revised Act ensured greater compliance with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and this led to him working closely with key personnel from the regional institution through the reporting on the activities of local credit unions. He also served as Secretary of the Caricom Regulators which was another regional body responsible for the enactment of proper legislation to govern the credit union sector.
In 2022, Jarvis was appointed as Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) following the retirement of the previous Chairman, Nathaniel ‘Paddy’ James. This bestowment of great responsibility would come after many years of dedicated service within this area. He first took an active interest in the electoral process of the state when he served as a Returning Officer during the country’s general elections in 1994. He continued serving in this capacity for some time. His invaluable service and professional experience led to additional responsibilities as Lead Training Officer for electoral workers. He was appointed to serve as a member of the Antigua Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) in 2015.
Mr. Jarvis also played his part on the regional stage serving as a Caricom Electoral Observer with his first mission in 1999 and his most recent in 2022 in which he functioned as Chief of Missions for the Grenada general elections. A most noteworthy regional stint was as a member of the Caricom scrutineering team supervised the recount of the Guyana election of March 2, 2020. The team was appointed to manage the recount process in the face of reports of major discrepancies reported in the initial results. The results of the recount led to the settling of major disquiet in Guyana and the restoration of faith in the country’s democratic process.
Jarvis notes that contributing to the electoral process was something he liked from the start as he took joy in seeing members of the electorate being able to participate in the decision making process. He described it as ‘another dimension’ and indicated his commitment to ensuring effective electoral operations within the state. He admits that there is much work to be done especially with sensitive topics such as campaign financing, constituency boundary revision and the counting process, however, he points out that greater voter education would be a key necessity to help in enabling such levels of electoral reform.
As a key player in the electoral process, Jarvis acknowledged the importance of being objective and carrying oneself above scrutiny. This, he indicated, is something that he is able to handle as he has a track record for being quite vocal and for getting the job done. Family support and core values instilled throughout the years have also been instrumental in maintaining his focus. He credits his church, the Spring Gardens Moravian, as being a good training ground with its thriving youth body and esteemed men within the church such as Bradley Carrot, Cecil Isaac and George Lewis who took him under their wings as a young man. This would have led to him having quite an active church life back then and his continued involvement even now.
These days, Jarvis admits that he is more interested in ‘taking a backseat’ and allowing the younger ones the opportunity to shine. He is willing to offer advice and guidance whenever it may be needed.