DYWA director confirmed — Jonathan Fanene
Former NFL player and native son of American Samoa, Jonathan Fanene, has been officially confirmed by the Fono as the new director of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs, after yesterday’s unanimous Senate vote of 14-0.
The House confirmed the nominee last week in a 12-2 vote and Fanene — a 2000 graduate of Tafuna High School and former defense end with the Cincinnati Bengals — is the youngest cabinet member of the Lolo Administration at the age of 31.
Fanene is the third Fono confirmed director for this department, which was established by law about 12 years ago.
Early yesterday morning Fanene appeared before the Senate Government Operations Committee for his confirmation hearing, where committee chairman Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli pointed out that many senators are aware of this native son of American Samoa, who has decided to return home to serve his people and government.
Sen. Laolagi, the first to address the hearing, describing Fanene as a “very humble young man”, whom he knew from the time he was a teacher at Tafuna High School and the nominee was a student and a great football player for the Tafuna Warriors.
Noting his return to the Territory to ‘serve’ despite his great fame, the senator said he wished the nominee the very best.
Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i shared with Fanene the many problems involving students today in the territory especially the inter and intra school fights. The senators asked how the nominee would address such growing problems if confirmed as director.
Fanene responded he is aware of this particular issue and he has been briefed on it by the staff. Additionally, there has been a request made to DYWA for assistance and a plan is being worked out with final details to be shared with students when the department visits the schools.
Sen. Faumuina, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and has received numerous concerns from the public about after-school fights last year, said villages are also working on a resolution to this ongoing problem and can provide support to DYWA by working together.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, who rarely attends confirmation hearings, asked the nominee what was the most important aspect in his decision to return home to serve American Samoa.
Fanene became emotional and paused for a long time and then commented that when his father passed away last year, it was a difficult decision to make — to return to the territory — as there were many opportunities in the U.S.
However, he said, he wanted to come home to take care of his mother and, with a humble heart, to serve the people and government of American Samoa. (Fanene’s mother along with several family members were in the Senate gallery during the 40-minute confirmation hearing).
Gaoteote says he agrees with other senators, who praised the sons and daughters of American Samoa, such as Fanene, for returning home to serve their people, despite the fact there were many great opportunities in the U.S. He thanked Fanene for making the right decision to came home and also thanked the governor for this nomination.
Sen. Avegalio Aigamaua asked for the nominee’s reaction when he was appointed as director, to which Fanane said he was first contacted by phone by the governor and he was shocked and very humbled to be considered for the job.
All of the 14 senators present at the hearing spoke about Fanene’s successful career in the NFL and that he is among the sons of the territory in professional football who have put American Samoa on the world map.
In closing, Galeai reminded Fanene the “the governor is your boss” and told him not to shy away from “offering the governor good advice.”
At the end, senators wished Fanene the best and gave him their blessings.