Judith “Judi” Guthertz, a former senator, has a commanding presence. Put her in a room and her diminutive stature rises above the others a head taller than her. Even on the road, her signature yellow car with the smiley face stands out.
Gender does not define capability but in her new public role with the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, this factor will stand out for the obvious reason that the CCU has been an “all-boys club” for a long time.
Aside from Guthertz, only two other women have had the distinction of being elected as CCU commissioners — the late Gloria B. Nelson and Margaret Blas.
Guthertz, who is a part-time professor at the University of Guam, will officially take office on Jan. 12. In a recent brief chat with the Pacific Island Times, the former senator shared how she plans to rebuild public confidence in the utilities and help improve the commission.
Guthertz had been part of the commission more than a decade ago. “The CCU is responsible for providing policy direction for the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Waterworks Authority. It came into being in 2002. The first folks elected were Simon Sanchez, Frank Shimizu, Benigno Palomo, Vince Camacho and myself. We replaced the old GPA and GWA boards.”
Her second foray into the CCU was pushed by a plan to be the public advocate on the board. “I think the members, good people, sometimes have to think about the perspectives of the ratepayers. What can the ratepayers afford? How do we make it so they can afford it? How would these decisions affect them?”
Guthertz added, “I want to make sure that these decisions are fair to the business community as well because they’re investing in our island. And these decisions must enhance the quality of life of our people by ensuring they have access to power, water and wastewater services.”
She also shared her thoughts on breaking the glass ceiling at several points in her career. “I’ve always had to deal with that throughout my professional life. And I think that I’m (still) able to deal with that. I mean, I was the first woman director of public safety on Guam, the first acting chief of police.”
“I had to deal with a lot of men— some, not very accepting of a woman. But I’ve never been afraid of being in a man’s world. Legislature is like that, too. (I was) dealing with guys who are power-oriented, egotistical, wanting to take all the important positions and all the different committees. They’ll fight with you. And you have to hold your own,” she added.
Guthertz said she wants her fellow commissioners to be conscientious about the impact of decisions that the CCU makes on the community at large, families, business community, stakeholders and people in need in terms of quality of life issues, affordability and also propriety.
“I want to make sure contracts are properly done, no favoritism. Don’t think there is, but I’m going to keep my eyes on that so things are done properly and fairly, from the beginning. Also, that there is no misapplications of the law in the procedures,” she said. “Not there to micromanage, I know the difference. I teach that in the classroom. But I certainly have the right to ask questions, ensuring things are done right. In the end, CCU has to approve these things.”
Guthertz said she intends to prioritize two things, communication and the reliability of power, water and wastewater services.
In terms of the plan to bolster public confidence, she said this goal ties in with the reliability of services, instantaneous and continuous communication and trusting the personnel and CCU commission to be ethical and honest in all their actions. “That’s very important,” she added.
She shared her excitement in becoming part of the CCU again, “I’m very honored that people have given me this opportunity. At this CCU, I want to remind everybody that Guam is one big family. We have to help everybody improve their quality of life. We have to keep that in mind when we make our decisions. That’s my goal!”