Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now Everyone Knows

I resigned from Beautify CNMI last week in anticipation of my return to Florida. The Variety wanted to run a story right away, but I asked if they could hold off for a bit. The story ran today.
Villagomez steps down as Beautify CNMI head
By Richelle Ann P. Agpoon - Variety News Intern

AFTER volunteering almost a thousand hours to Beautify CNMI and after accomplishing all of his goals for the coalition, its executive director Angelo O’Connor Villagomez is stepping down.

“Beautify CNMI gave me the best four years of my life and it was the people that I have worked with and met in the coalition that is the best part of being involved in it,” he said yesterday.

The coalition’s mission, he added, is to bring the whole community together to make the island clean and preserve its natural beauty.

Beautify CNMI was the first organization to organize an islandwide cleanup that drew the participation of thousands of people.

Villagomez promoted the coalition through the Internet by creating an interactive Web site for it and reaching it to schools.


Villagomez said his family is supportive and understanding of his decision to pursue a doctorate in marine life but some of his Beautify CNMI colleagues are “disappointed.”

He said “as long as the group works together, Beautify CNMI will be successful” with or without him.

He wants to see more people get involved in community service.


Villagomez said he does not have any regret despite losing the Saipan mayoral race.

He said he is happy to be a candidate.

Villagomez placed third in a nine-way race.

As mayor, he believed he could have done a “pretty good job” in addressing the stray dog issue and beautifying the island.

He said Mayor Juan B. Tudela failed to address these issues but he is hoping that newly elected mayor, Donald Flores, will tackle them.

The people and not the government must be the vehicle for change, Villagomez said.

Someday he would like to see island residents separate family and government when casting their votes*.

That type of freedom and the “Do it Yourself” American attitude were practiced by Beautify CNMI, he said.
The amount of time I've dedicated to Beautify CNMI over the last four years is probably closer to 10,000 hours than 1,000 hours. In 2006 and 2007 it was a full-time unpaid job; it kept me busy.

I know that some will say that Beautify CNMI was not the first organization to do an island wide cleanup. To clarify, Beautify CNMI was the first organization to coordinate cleanups on the scale where thousands of people participated. The first cleanup in 2006 was top of the fold, front page, headline news. By 2009 it was just another story, probably because we'd been doing it for so long and it wasn't surprising that we'd be able to coordinate such a large event.

I don't understand why my candidacy for Mayor colors everything I have done these last four years. Perhaps because it is so fresh in people's minds? I ran a clean, issue-driven campaign, but when it comes down to it, I lost. The other things I'd done before that three month campaign were much more successful. I won national and regional awards for my work. Beautify CNMI was the Saipan Tribune 2006 Person of the Year and was recognized on the floor of the US Congress. I also helped create one of the world's largest marine protected areas, met the President, and appeared on NBC talking about the designation.

Office terms expire, but I will be the Godfather of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument until the day I die. That is my legacy.

*During the interview Richelle and I got to talking about what this island needs to do to turn itself around. I mentioned that the United States has a clause seperating church and state and what the Commonwealth needed was a separation of family and state. Family relations are important to our culture and respect must be given, obligations fulfilled, but these obligations have no place in how we govern ourselves. When I am at church or with the family and Ben Fitial is around, he is Uncle Ben. As the uncle, he outranks me. In a government setting or in a professional setting, he is Governor Fitial. As a voter, I am his boss, although all proper respect must be given. Most of our lawmakers and elected officials do not adhere to this separation.

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