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By Gaynor-Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 31) - LizaMarie Camacho has bowed out of her appointment as Department of Youth Affairs deputy director.

The governor's office yesterday released a memorandum, dated May 30, accepting the 25-year-old undergraduate student's decision to step down.

Gov. Felix Camacho has received criticism from residents and politicians for having appointed LizaMarie Camacho to DYA's No. 2 job.  A special-education student at the University of Guam and a distant relative of the governor, LizaMarie Camacho started her DYA job a week ago, Pacific Daily News files state.

The governor's memorandum states that he remains confident in LizaMarie Camacho's skills, but acknowledged that negative reaction to the appointment led him to support her decision to reconsider.

"While I continue to have full confidence in your leadership ability and those of your generation, the current environment would only seek to detract from programs aimed at improving the lives of troubled youth, regardless of the validity of those programs and your ability to carry them out," the governor wrote.

The appointment also became an issue because Youth Affairs had not had a deputy director since 2001.

And Youth Affairs Director Chris Duenas told senators during budget hearings last year that the agency can continue to fulfill its mission without a deputy director, said Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Ordot/Chalan Pago.

The Pacific Daily News asked Duenas last week whether there had been changes at Youth Affairs that would now make the position a necessary position to fill.

"I think administratively, the conditions haven't changed. My opinion is that the governor appears to make the appointment to fill some gaps," Duenas said.

The Camacho administration has no immediate plan to appoint another person to the DYA deputy director's position, said governor's spokeswoman Erica Perez.

LizaMarie Camacho will go back to her former job at the governor's office.

Her salary was $37,000 a year as a special assistant to the governor. The deputy director position would have given her an annual salary of $50,440.

"Your former position at the Office of the Governor is restored and will be expanded to include working directly with DYA on youth-related programs," the governor wrote.

"There are some in our community who are actively seeking to malign your reputation to the detriment of the promising future you have. Some may not believe that this is your time. However, yours and your generation's role in leadership is coming much sooner than some expect or desire," the governor added in the memo.

The governor further wrote: "The majority of those who have fought and died to advance our nation's cause of freedom were no older than you. History is filled with great achievement from men and women who were as young, if not younger than you. Time is on your side."

But for island residents who were interviewed before LizaMarie Camacho stepped down from her deputy director appointment, the issue is not about her age, but rather, her skills.

According to LizaMarie Camacho's resume, she has worked at 10 different places, doing 12 different entry-level jobs since graduating from George Washington High School seven years ago. She is studying special education at the University of Guam.

Several local residents said last week that the governor's appointment of LizaMarie Camacho perpetuates the idea: "It's not what you know, it's who you know" that earns you promotions or positions with high salaries in the government of Guam.

Robby Kamakazi Espinosa, 41, of Barrigada Heights was among residents who perceived LizaMarie Camacho as lacking in qualifications to be a government of Guam deputy director.

Removing LizaMarie Camacho from the deputy director position, Espinosa said last week, "would be fair to the people of Guam and the employees at DYA who have been there -- maybe longer than she's been alive," Espinosa said.

Gerhard Schwab, a UOG professor of social work and psychology, said he is "disappointed and puzzled" at last week's appointment of LizaMarie Camacho.

"I couldn't figure out the rationale: Why a high school graduate would be put into a leadership position like that. ... It just doesn't make a lot of sense," Schwab said last week. "I'm sure she is a very intelligent and capable young woman, but she lacks the qualifications for the position. ... There's a misfit between the requirement of such a position and what she brings to it.

"I think the governor, by appointing her, created a situation that is a very difficult one to defend. This is a solution that only creates more problems," Schwab said.

Frank Blas, 52, of Yigo said he's disappointed at the governor's actions, which were contrary to his campaign promise that he would appoint qualified people into positions of leadership within the government.

"What happened to the reviewing board that was supposed to get the best-qualified applicants for these positions? That's what he promised in his campaign," Blas said.

"It's very obvious that nepotism was involved in the governor's decision. This has nothing to do with competence, credentials and experience," Blas said.

Dededo resident Josephine Moon, 26, said last week she felt the governor has wisely appointed people to head other departments, including the directors for Youth Affairs and the Department of Public Works.

"I was really surprised that he appointed someone ... with so little experience and no formal education relating to the field," Moon said. "I would think that there are people who have been (at Youth Affairs) for a longer time, and who are trained and qualified to be the deputy director."

May 31, 2004

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