(CMR) After an illustrious career spanning over 37 years, Debbie Webb-Sibblies, a stalwart advocate for social development, bids farewell to the Cayman Islands Civil Service as she embarks on a well-deserved retirement.
Webb-Sibblies' journey in the Civil Service has been nothing short of remarkable as she overcame challenges in her path to play a pivotal role in shaping policies, and tirelessly working towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate society for all.
During her tenure at the Department of Social Services, now the Department of Children and Family Services, she led steering committees that championed social issues, such as the establishment of the first Young Parents Programme, a national parenting initiative promoting responsible parenting in the Cayman Islands. Her leadership also encompassed the implementation of guidelines for managing referrals and investigating child abuse, ensuring the protection of the youngest members of society.
A pivotal moment in her career came when she embraced the opportunity to pursue an undergraduate degree in social welfare at Florida A&M University. This bold decision reflected Webb-Sibblies' commitment to enhancing her skills and contributing meaningfully to the community. Her internships at Leon Refuge House, the Rape Crisis Centre, and adolescent substance abuse programs shaped her into a compassionate and empathetic social worker.
After completing her degree in 1986, she returned to the Civil Service and, over the next 29 years, ascended through the ranks, taking on various managerial roles that showcased her leadership acumen and commitment to effecting positive change. She later went on to obtain her Master’s in Public Policy in 2016.
As a trailblazer, she realized that in order to be most effective she needed the academic foundation to complement her experience in carrying out this crucial work. Webb-Sibblies' advocacy continued through radio campaigns, co-chairing the Child Protection Task Force, and contributing to facilities for children with special needs. She actively participated in developing the Early Intervention Programme, national guidelines for preschools, and Miss Nadine's Children's Home, showcasing her commitment to social work and community development.
In 2016, she officially transitioned to the Policy Coordination Unit, leading the drafting of the National Older Persons Policy. Her influence expanded with the establishment of a Community of Practice for Policy Practitioners, showcasing her dedication to governance improvement and innovation. Focusing on best practice, this was the first time this type of professional community for policy practitioners was established, with the goal of enhancing the delivery of effective public policy for the public sector.
During a 9-month Secondment in the Ministry of Community Affairs, Webb-Sibblies assisted the Chief Officer in laying the groundwork for a centralized area for the delivery of services to older persons.
Acknowledging her support system, Webb-Sibblie credits her family, colleagues, and role models for shaping her purpose-driven life. Her grandmother, Ianthie Clarke and Sybil Webb, and mother, Inez Clarke-Webb, instilled values of dignity, strength, wisdom, generosity, and industriousness.
“They were my role models. My memories of them keep me grounded and encourage me to go higher in all areas of my life. In fact, Grandmother Ianthie bravely signed the petition in 1957 for the right of women to vote in these Islands. I will always be proud of her stand for equality. Such principles also influenced my passion to contribute towards my people’s development,” she said.
“Over the decades, I’ve walked with courageous, professional, and brilliant colleagues and community members, including my fellow Caymanians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Bajans, Belizeans, and St. Lucians, among others. We blazed trails because we saw the need for change in the Cayman Islands, believing that everyone, including our most vulnerable members of society, deserves respect and to be treated with dignity,” she added.
Through advocacy, policy development, and sheer willpower, she played a visible and strategic role in assisting with the transformation of social development in the Cayman Islands. In her final two years at the Ministry of Investment, Innovation & Social Development (MIISD), Webb-Sibblies worked as a Strategic Policy Advisor, focusing on advancing the well-being of older persons and establishing best practice standards for safeguarding adults at risk.
Beyond her professional achievements, Mrs. Webb-Sibblies is a recognized local author, adding another dimension to her contributions to Cayman society. Her literary work, “Living My Second Chance with a Grateful Heart,” earned her a Literary Award in 2017. The book, born out of her survival of a clinical (temporary) death experience in April 2012, is a testament to her resilience and serves as an inspiration for others facing life's challenges.
Deputy Premier and Minister for MIISD the Hon. André Ebanks expressed his deepest gratitude for her invaluable service, sharing, “We are thankful for Mrs. Webb-Sibblies’ leadership, passion and commitment. She has set a standard for excellence within the Civil Service, inspiring colleagues and community members alike. On behalf of the Ministry and broader government, we wish Debbie a fulfilling and joyous retirement as she embarks on this new chapter of life. While her departure leaves a void that will be keenly felt, her legacy will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of social development in the Cayman Islands.”
On behalf of the Cayman Islands Civil Service, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson echoed the Ministry’s sentiments saying, “Mrs. Debbie Webb-Sibblies has exemplified a level of dedication and commitment to the Civil Service that is truly commendable. Throughout her decades of service, she has not only contributed significantly to the betterment of our community but has done so with the utmost passion, professionalism and integrity. As we bid farewell to Mrs. Debbie, we acknowledge her enduring commitment to improve the lives of Cayman’s most vulnerable citizens. We wish Mrs. Debbie the very best in her retirement, confident that her spirit of compassion and the values she embodied will continue to serve as inspiration for generations to come.”
Chief Officer Tamara Ebanks said, “The legacy Debbie leaves behind is one of compassion and progress. The Deputy Premier and I, along with the MIISD team, acknowledge her profound impact and express our heartfelt appreciation for her 37+ years of service. Her unwavering commitment, resilience, and dedication to the people of the Cayman Islands will continue to inspire positive change and foster a stronger, more compassionate community for generations to come.”