Barbados has its first-ever president elect.
Dame Sandra Mason, 72, was elected when she won a two-thirds vote during a joint session of the Caribbean nation’s House of Assembly and Senate on Wednesday.
Mason, who is the current governor-general of Barbados, will be sworn in Nov. 30 on the 55th anniversary of Barbados’ independence from Britain. At that time, Mason will replace Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state in the nation’s process of becoming a republic, CNN reports.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the election of a president was a “seminal moment,” according to Sky News. “We have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian, does not pretend to be anything else [and] reflects the values of who we are.”
Mason has worked as a schoolteacher, a magistrate, the ambassador to Venezuela, Chile, Colombia and Brazil and she was the first female Court of Appeal judge of the Supreme Court of Barbados, according to her official bio. She served as registrar of the Supreme Court until 2005.
In 2018, she became governor-general, an executive position appointed by the Queen based on the prime minister’s recommendation.
“With such an outstanding career, Dame Sandra also takes an avid interest in reading, playing [S]crabble, watching cricket and travelling,” according to her bio. “However, her greatest achievement is being the mother of son Matthew, who is also an Attorney-at-Law.”
“Having obtained independence over half a century ago, our country can be in no doubt about its capacity for self-governance. The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Mason said in a speech written by Mottley at the opening of parliament in September 2020. “Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence of who we are and what we are capable of achieving.”
The Queen remains head of state for 15 other sovereign countries that were previously under British rule, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The last country to replace her as its figurehead was Mauritius in 1992, 24 years after its independence.
Barbados has been a favorite stop for royals through the years, with the Queen visiting the island multiple times since she first set foot on its soil in 1966, just as it was securing independence.
Mottley said of her country’s historic step away from Britain and the Queen, “We look forward to continuing the relationship with the British monarch.”