Speaker Therese Terlaje: A balancing act

Division is the nature of politics and Guam's political landscape is no exception to this reality. We are soon to find out how this will play out in the 36th Guam Legislature, where Democrats cling to the majority by a thread.

With eight Democrats and seven Republicans, newly elected Speaker Therese Terlaje can expect a more challenging political process in the legislature. In her inaugural remarks on Jan. 4, Terlaje vowed “to raise the standard to which we will hold ourselves and the government accountable, to continue to advocate for the preservation of legislative authority as representatives of the people of Guam, and most importantly, continue to earn the respect and trust of those who have placed us here.

While she is seen as a progressive — known for championing Chamorro self-determination and protection of Guam environment, especially Ritidian — Terlaje has also gained support from the business community. She was one of the two Democrats endorsed by Action PAC, which noted her support for local businesses and reopening of tourism. In the last senatorial race, Terlaje was the top voter getter.

A lawyer by profession, Terlaje served as legal counsel for the Guam Legislature from 2011 to 2016. She was first elected senator in 2016 and is now serving her third term. Born and raised in Yona, Terlaje earned a bachelor in biology from Creighton University and a juris doctor from the UCLA School of Law.

Terlaje knows the importance of balancing a responsible military buildup with the needs of the people of Guam. As chair of the Committee on Health, Tourism, Historic Preservation, Land and Justice, Terlaje has heard concerns of both the private sector and cultural activists and proposed a middle ground.

Terlaje uses science and economics when reasoning against destructions of native habitats. As a lawyer, she is aware of the importance of logic and research when presenting a case. Terlaje uses her background in law to help navigate her decisions as senator. During her first two terms in the legislature, Terlaje authored 30 bills that had been signed into law.

For this issue of the Pacific Island Times, we asked her a few questions:

What are the priorities of t