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Cabinet appointments set: DOE, DMWR, DPW, Port, DHSS

American Samoa Community College’s former president Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau has been nominated director of the Department of Education, while the former DOE director under the Togiola Administration; Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele has been chosen to head the Department of Port Administration.

These were two of the five new cabinet appointments publicly announced yesterday by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga as part of his State of the Territory Address before a joint session of the Legislature. (See separate story on Lolo’s address to lawmakers).

All five have in common educational backgrounds that include four PhDs and one engineering degree.

Dr. Hunkin-Finau is a veteran educator, holding a PHD in Education and served as an ASCC president several years ago. She was recently a candidate for governor in the 2012 gubernatorial race, during which she advocated teaching the Samoan language and culture as an integral part of the DOE curriculum.

Dr. Poumele served for several years as DOE deputy director until she was appointed director in 2008 by then Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who in April 2011 asked her to resign, which she did. Her doctorate is in education.

Lolo also announced that Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona, who also holds a PHD in education, and is currently an executive with StarKist Samoa, has been appointed director for the Department of Human and Social Services. The previous DHSS director was also a former StarKist Samoa executive, who excelled in finances, Leilua Stevenson. Under her leadership, DHSS lead the way for the local government to resolve many of the issues that had put it on “high risk” status for federal funds of the U.S. government.

For the Department of Public Works, the governor has appointed DPW’s long time deputy director Faleosina Voight as director. Voight is a certified Professional Engineer and has been acting director since the Lolo administration took office on Jan. 3rd. The priority given to Voight is an update on all road projects in the territory as well as a maintenance plan.

The fifth nomination is Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga as director for the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. She is a respected educator, who has been with DOE for many years, and holds a doctorate in Science.

Lolo said he and Lemanu selected these individuals based on their leadership skills and experience. He made clear that the appointments “were not made lightly” and were “not based on political affiliation.”

Prior to announcing the new appointments, Lolo said three other cabinet directors were appointed last Friday: Le’i Sonny Thompson at the Department of Human Resources; Iuniasolua Savusa at the Department of Homeland Security; and Falema’o M. ‘Phil’ Pili as ASG Treasurer overseeing the Department of Treasury.

Pili was appointed by Togiola in August of 2011 to serve as executive director for the Territorial Office of Fiscal Reform. Several years before, he had been chief financial officer for the LBJ Medical Center, after serving as CFO at ASCC. He is also a former ASG deputy treasurer.

(Brief background information on Le’i and Savusa was reported in yesterday’s Samoa News edition.)

Lolo plans to send today to the Fono for confirmation the first batch of directors who have been appointed “to help us implement our collective vision to improve the quality of lives of [our] people,” according to the governor’s prepared speech.

“I humbly ask you to please support by confirmation these individuals who were selected not because of political affiliation but based predominantly on qualifications and demonstrated practical experiences,” he said.

According to the governor, these leaders who are appointed cabinet members have undergone background checks by the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, these “individuals also work at the discretion of the governor and they are expected to implement and to meet performance deliverables.”

“Continuation as director will depend on how well these deliverables are fulfilled,” he added.