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Ex-vice-president’s service acknowledged by Fono

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, May 16, 2009) – House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale yesterday led House members and Senators in a brief ceremony in the House chamber to present to former StarKist Company official Barry Allen Mills a concurrent resolution honoring and thanking him for his long years of service to StarKist Samoa and to American Samoa.

Mills, who had been with StarKist for some 16 years and has held the post of vice president of operations, left the company earlier this month. StarKist’s corporate office has not commented as to whether Mills was let go or resigned.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono told reporters May 1 that Mills is no longer part of StarKist, owned by the South Korean-based Dongwon Industries.

Also attending yesterday’s ceremony were Chamber of Commerce president David Robinson and Department of Human and Social Services director Leilua Stevenson, a former senior StarKist official.

Speaking for Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie and himself, Savali said "we as leaders of the Fono decided on this ceremony to present this resolution to honor and acknowledge the service" of Mills "not only to StarKist but to the people and the government of American Samoa."

Savali also recalled that when he was first elected House Speaker in January 1993, it was also then that Mills joined StarKist Samoa and the two met at that time.

"Now he is leaving [StarKist] and I’m Speaker ... and here to present the resolution and bid him farewell," said Savali, who is the longest serving House member.

The entire three-page resolution was read by Chief House Clerk Fialupe Fiaui.

"I am honored and touched by the resolution," said Mills, adding that "my accomplishments in American Samoa [and] at Starkist could not have been possible without...the cooperation and understanding" of the territorial government, traditional leaders, the Fono and the community.

Mills also expressed great gratitude and appreciation to Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono "for your belief in me." Soliai, who was also present at the ceremony, is described by the resolution as Mills’ "Samoan surrogate father", who bestowed on Mills in 1996 the Samoan chiefly title of "Alofamoni".

According to the resolution, Soliai noted back then that the "title clearly described Barry’s nature of generosity to the people of American Samoa and especially to his employees at StarKist."

During the ceremony Mills wished the best to StarKist and its new owner Dongwon and their chief executive officers. "There are no hard feelings. All the best to their future endeavors," he said.

Soliai thanked Savali and the Fono for this special honor for "a son" regarding his service to American Samoa.

The resolution commends and expresses gratitude to Mills for his leadership role in the management of StarKist Samoa and his "perseverance in maintaining StarKist’s presence in the territory for benefit of the residents of American Samoa."

"Among the host of managers in American Samoa’s private sector, one individual is particularly deserving of special recognition for his years of distinguished service not only to this employer but his numerous contributions to the community," the resolution observes. "For some 16 years...Mills, in his capacity as vice president of operations for StarKist Samoa, has set a standard for others to follow."

In January 1993, Mills started as StarKist Samoa operations manager and 12 months later he was promoted to president and general manager of the company. Within four years as general manager, Mills was able to increase StarKist’s production by 25% and double the company’s operating income, the resolution says.

"Barry’s contributions to the community are several and include his practice of placing Samoans in top local management and supervisory positions; initiating the ‘Charlie’s Kids Program’ which recognized and rewarded achievements of local elementary schools; and supporting the expansion and diversification of StarKist’s production into pouched packed tuna," it says.

Although it is regrettable that Mills’ association with StarKist and employment in American Samoa has concluded, "he leaves behind an example for others, especially our youth, to emulate, not only in his leadership skills, exemplary professionalism, managerial style and business acumen, but also his spirit of contribution to the people of American Samoa."

"It is fitting to recognize and call attention to the results that can be achieved by development and application of such traits as dedication to duty, perseverance and selflessness, all of which Barry possess and which have allowed him to advance from his initial employment as an hourly employee to become a vice president of an international corporate conglomerate," the resolution notes.

In closing, the resolution says the Fono "commends and extends its sincere appreciation" to Mills "for his years of service to an employment relationship which has been a true benefit not only to his employer and its employees but to the people of American Samoa as well."

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