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Utu answers concerns about wearing “too many hats” in gov’t service

Says the question should be: “Are there more ways for more people to serve the community?”

Concerns — and perhaps some are complaints — have surfaced in the past few months about American Samoa Power Authority executive director Utu Abe Malae “wearing too many hats” in serving the government on a handful of boards and committees.

Besides being the ASPA boss, Utu is vice chairman of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority board, which he has several times served as acting chairman; chairman of the board of the government entity, Territorial Bancorp Holding Company which governs and oversees the newly established Territorial Bank of American Samoa; American Samoa Renewable Energy Committee co-chair; and co-chair of the Island Wide Clean Up Committee.

Early this year he was also appointed by the governor to serve as LBJ hospital task force chairman, and the work of the task force was completed a few months ago.

Asked if he isn’t “wearing too many hat” in government service, Utu said, “No, I don't think so. I believe you should be asking — are there more ways for more people to serve the community?”

In return Samoa News asked the question and he responded, “Yes, people can get involved in community service organizations,” help to DOE with the Science, Technology, Engineer and Mathematics (STEM) program; help with the Adopt a School program — not just government departments but private or non-government organizations too; and help with environmental programs.

Utu points out, “We have a small labor pool in the territory, so we must always be on the lookout to use the best of our abilities to serve. We learned this lesson years ago in the electric utility business in the Pacific islands.”

“There aren't that many who do this kind of work - and the best ones are those who are multi-skilled,” he said.

Samoa News also asked Utu, “How are you able to make time and to focus your work on all these duties and responsibilities? Or do you have time to concentrate on all these different responsibilities?”

Utu responded, “Follow the tenets of good management and leadership — even if you stumble and fall. You have to become more efficient because there are only a certain number of hours in a day. It helps to stay away from negativity — as you will have more time to be positive.

“You must have access to skilled and trustworthy people who can help. You must help others too, especially the needy... it is not a one-way street. You have to stay healthy physically and mentally,” he said.

“Reading non-fiction is a good way to keep your mind sharp. Recite or read the ‘Nicene Creed’ as a reminder that your faith is not the same as participating in a social club.”

Additionally, “You don't hold grudges or burn bridges — instead, seek to understand.”

As to those in the community who believe that he is “wearing too many hats”, Utu said, “There is a saying: if you want something done, go ask a busy person.”

Asked if being a chairman and vice chair of so many ASG boards, is neglect of his executive director duties at ASPA, Utu responded, “They complement one another.”

“Think of the duties of a City Manager and not a political appointee such as a Mayor of a city,” he added.

(According to wikipedia, a city manager is an official appointed as the administrative manager of a city, in a council-manger form of city government. Local officials serving in this position are sometimes referred to as the chief executive officer or chief administrative officer in some municipalities in the US.)