Election 2016: Family, Public Service and the Economy with Ivan A. Blanco
In the second part of my election series, I decided to interview an actual candidate. Since we have a wide variety of sources to help us keep up with elections on the mainland, I chose to venture out to Saipan–which, is one of two U.S. territories to have “Commonwealth” status. The other is Puerto Rico.
Saipan is located around 120 mi (190 km) north of Guam. Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the island has a population of around 48,220. While it hosts many industries, its main source of revenue comes from tourism. In fact, The Huffington Post called Saipan “The Most Beautiful Place in America You’ve Never Seen.” In addition, you can read more about the island here.
Ivan A. Blanco is a Republican candidate for one of the six House seats in Saipan’s Precinct 3. Moreover, there are a total of 12 candidates vying for the six seats. Some of Blanco’s previous roles include serving as special assistant for communications and protocol under Gov. Ralph Torres and the late Gov. Eloy Inos. Before that, he was the former statistics director and deputy secretary with the Department of Commerce. Furthermore, he holds a bachelor of arts degree from Creighton University. Here, I talked to Blanco about his experience–so far– as a candidate.
You’ve served in varying government roles for many years. What prompted you to develop an interest in public service?
Ivan A. Blanco: My parents’ work in government played a role in my decision to be in public service. My mom was a trial counselor at the prosecutor’s office and my dad served as finance director. I would visit their offices after school and observe the work they did, the people they met, and hear them talk about their work at the dinner table.
Even the Jesuit high school I attended stressed its mission statement, “to educate students to become competent, compassionate, and conscientious leaders in the Christian faith through public service.” My parents’ government service and education both played a major role in developing my dedication to public service.
You’re currently running for Representative of Precint 3. What made you decide this was something you wanted to do?
Ivan A. Blanco: Serving as Press Secretary for the late Governor Inos and current Governor Torres, observing their untiring dedication to rebuild CNMI’s economy, the challenges they faced, and successes were integral in my decision that the time is now to answer the call of public service through elected office. This is something I have always wanted to do, and the time is now.
How has the campaigning experience been so far? Is it difficult? Fun? What do you like most about your precint?
Ivan A. Blanco: The campaign trail has been amazing. I am meeting so many great people who want to play different roles in improving the community. People at their homes have been fantastic and welcoming when I visit them. We still have several weeks to go to election day, and I am really looking forward to meeting folks I have not met before, listening to their concerns, and sharing time with them. The campaign is positive and going great.
What do you think are the top three issues facing Saipan today? How would you address those?
Ivan A. Blanco: Current economic data has indicated a resurgence of our economy. People are working, funds are becoming available for much needed public services such as public safety, transportation, environmental stewardship programs and so forth. And, with this resurgence, I want our bright students to have the best world class school system with high speed internet, interactive classrooms, competitive programs locally and abroad, and all the necessities to equip them for their futures.
Second, many friends and family struggle with non communicable diseases because of the cheaper consumable imported products that are widely available at grocery stores. I feel it is time we begin to reverse this trend and encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy habits, and daily exercise.
As many know, our medical referral costs is a major expenditure every year in our government budgets. This takes away funds from other public service programs such as water delivery improvements, patrol vehicles in our villages, funds to combat illicit drugs, tourist site improvements, and so on.
Third, with our increasing tourism visitor numbers, it is imperative that this gain must benefit the people and the environment of the CNMI. Tourism income can support preservation and protection of our fragile marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Once we neglect our environment, there will be no visitors to our islands. Tourism also translates to job creations, small business start ups, and innovations. Our people have the talents to become innovative entrepreneurs, they want good paying jobs in this industry, and I want to make sure that happens and that they have the capital support available.
It’s really sweet seeing your wife, Carmen, out on the campaign trail. What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?
Ivan A. Blanco: Thank you very much. She’ll love it when I tell her. My wife Carmen’s strong support reminds me daily that for every successful man, stands a strong woman. We have five children, and she makes sure there is time for her and the kids to join me at every campaign event…especially when it’s not on homework nights. Friends call her Carmenator because of her contagious high spirits. People love her for her kindness and generosity.
If you win, what is the first action you’d like to take?
Ivan A. Blanco: I aim to take action on the top three issues mentioned earlier through thorough legislation that the local community and the business community can both adopt and embrace. One perfect example, is how Waikiki was transformed from just another tourist destination to a world class destination. Our people in the community and our businesses can agree with me that we can surely emulate the same start with our tourist district, Garapan, and to our tourist sites around Saipan.
In your opinion, what makes this election different from those in previous years?
Ivan A. Blanco: There is a positive mood in this election both with the incumbents and us the new candidates. This is a positive reflection that no matter what party one belongs to, public service for the people comes first and foremost.
Going out and earning votes requires stamina and perseverance. How do you stay energized through a very demanding campaign schedule?
Ivan A. Blanco: When one enjoys what he or she is doing, stamina and perseverance come naturally. I am enjoying this campaign very much and am encouraging more people to answer the call of public service because it is an honorable calling-service to community, service to country.
Mr. Blanco, thank you again for your time. Also, one last question!
What’s your favorite beach on Saipan?
Ivan A. Blanco: Yes, thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback to your readers. My highest regards and assurance to them. Elections are an important process for the people to participate in because through their votes, their voices, their concerns, their dreams are heard and should be answered by those seeking elected office. I encourage people to come out and vote.
And, after voting, everyone is more than welcome to join me at Pantalon Beach, as I am there every chance I get.
It was a lot of fun interviewing Ivan. Don’t forget to check out the first part of this series where I interview personal branding expert, Leonard Kim.
So, when are you visiting Saipan?