Guam now has a new governor, Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero and lieutenant governor, Joshua F. Tenorio, after a blissful ceremony Monday at the University of Guam Fieldhouse as island Democrats, locked out of Adelup for a long 16 years, celebrated.
Both were sworn in to office by Guam Supreme Court Chief Justice Katherine A. Maraman.
Leon Guerrero is the first Democrat to hold the top seat in Adelup since Carl Gutierrez ended his two-year term in 2003.
While many on hand wanted to focus on the historical fact that Leon Guerrero will be the first woman to serve in the post, she had a stern message about the immediate need to deal with the shaky finances of the government of Guam, particularly in collecting long overdue taxes regardless of the gender of the governor.
“The era of exploding operational debt, massive budget shortfalls, higher taxes, closed doors, and decreased performance is over. Now is the time for change. We must make the die hard choices. We cannot forget our teachers, our nurses, our law enforcement officers and our people. The era for taking responsibility for our actions is here. Now is a time for change.”
Leon Guerrero is approaching this in a number of ways, but she pledged to ramp up pressure on the Department of Revenue and Taxation to do its job, pronto.
“To collect the taxes we are owed, plug the leaks, and lay old problems to rest; I've directed that the Department of Revenue and Taxation report to me daily until the Tax Recovery Unit is operational and all outstanding audit findings from the Office of Public Accountability are resolved.”
Leon Guerrero also suggested deep-rooted corruption is interfering with government operations and cheating every day taxpayers.
“For the first time in decades, we will seat the Guam Ethics Commission. It will hold those of us who work for you to the high ethical standards you expect from your elected officials. The Commission will serve as a venue for honest complaints, fair hearings, and resolution. But change requires more than a laundry list of things to do. It demands that we face old truths; that we take strong steps; and that we admit we have not done so.
"For too long, we have drifted – every year wandering a bit more off course – struggling to find our way back to prosperity. To ‘Restore Faith in our Future’ we must invest in our people, in their jobs, and in the prosperity of their futures. We must give them hope that, with hard work, with education and training, their lives will be better.
We must also cut our crushing debt and recognize that we live in a world which competes for every opportunity, and fights for every bit of growth. We need to make our tiny corner of the western Pacific a place that people want to do business with, to visit, to invest in.Government can do many things. But government cannot do everything.”
However, Leon Guerrero was not about to forget a long list of female pioneers in Guam governance that stretches back to the pre-Spanish contact days, from whence the Chamorro title Maga’Håga is derived.
“These women faced mountainous obstacles. Still, they climbed. They persisted because true to our island’s history and Chamorro heritage, they were strong women who stood up for what they believed in and knew that the paths they were taking would one day blaze a trail for women like me.
"My friends, today we walk in their inspiring footsteps. Today belongs to them; to our mothers and our grandmothers – but most of all – it belongs to our daughters – and to the belief that if you are committed and you work hard, you can be the change you wish to see, and spread that change like the sea that washes into our shores.”
And in this, Leon Guerrero was backed up by Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, winning clamorous applause from the crowd: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in the era of the Maga’Håga. And I trust and believe that our better days are ahead. With a strong mother, grandmother, nurse, businesswoman, and leader in the driver’s seat, I am certain we will get there. You can bank on that.”
In what was otherwise a smooth ceremony and event, the celebratory 21-gun salute outside the field house, seen on closed circuit TV inside, had a likely unanticipated result. As the police officers fired their first shots, car alarms in the packed parking lot went off, echoing throughout the hall to a lot of laughter.
Following is the full text of Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero's inaugural address delivered at the UOG Calvo Fieldhouse on Jan. 7, 2019.
Lt. Gov. Tenorio, Madame Speaker, Madame Chief Justice, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Senators of the 35th Guam Legislature, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly, my fellow citizens.
Forty-seven years ago, Governor Carlos Camacho stood before the people of Guam as our first elected governor. Today, I am only the eighth person, and the first woman, to have been chosen by the people to lead our island. It is an honor I hold deep in my heart, and a responsibility I embrace willingly.
At 47 years old, we are a young government, relatively speaking. And as such, we have our challenges. But we are also a strong democratic government, made of strong people who have overcome great challenges that have collectively made us far wiser than our 47 years.
Spanish occupation, American occupation, Japanese torture, imprisonment, force labor, liberation, and the frustration of still not having had the right to choose our own destiny -- this is our history, and it has made us what we are today: a savory melting pot of cultures that live and work together, take the best of what each has to offer, and who, as a community, try to grow stronger each year.
Governor Calvo and Lieutenant Governor Tenorio, I want to thank you for your gracious cooperation throughout the transition process and for the many years of public service you have given to our island.
Two months ago, people from every walk of life heard our call for change. And, as Josh mentioned, now it is our responsibility to do our best to deliver on what we've promised.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. We must raise the income of our working families. We have to decrease the rising tide of crime that steals our safety and robs us of our peace of mind.
We must build safe schools and repair those that are falling apart. We have to fix our broken streets and we will regain the accreditation of our hospital. We will inform you on how we use public monies. With your participation and cooperation, we will grow and make our economy strong.
Our challenges are real, and they are many. They weren't caused by just one party or just one set of leaders. We won't solve them all today, tomorrow, or even 100 days from now--but we will solve them together.
Democrat, Republican, or Independent – whether you voted for me, made another choice, or didn't vote at all – I now need your help and Guam needs you even more. Because no one – no elected leader, Governor, or Captain of industry can deliver the change we require alone. Guam needs every person from every walk of life, from every place of faith and from every corner of our island.
If you are in the workforce, we need you as a partner to come together and work with us on innovative strategies to establish new economic industries and to create better paying jobs. Our young people are smart. They are masters of technology. We need to tap into that potential as our island and the global workforce grow more technological.
We need to provide our sons and daughters and grandchildren with the education, skills, and the tools needed to graduate from high school, college, or another program. Because when they do this, they enter the workforce ready to compete for secure good-paying, sustainable jobs. We want our children to be prepared for success and to know that they can raise their family, buy a home, give back to our community, and make Guam the best home it can be for us all. They are our future, and this is perhaps our greatest challenge – to inspire this younger generation – to instill in th