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Governor of Guam 1995-2002

Carl Tommy Cruz Gutierrez (1941 – ) was the 11th civilian governor of Guam, serving two consecutive terms, along with Madeliene Z. Bordallo, his Lieutenant Governor, from 1995 until 2002. His term, just after an economic expansion in a subsequent downturn, was fraught with both controversy and accomplishment.

He is currently running for governor again. His running mate is Gary “Frank” Gumataotao.

Gutierrez was born 15 October 1941, less than two months before Guam was invaded and taken over by the Japanese during World War II on 8 December 1941. The son of Tomas Taitano Gutierrez and Rita Toves Benavente Cruz, he was the fourth child of a family of seven girls and four boys. Gutierrez grew up in Agana Heights and belongs to the (Cueto) Taitano, (Berah) Benavente, and (Fungo) Cruz clans. He was brought up by his mother as a Catholic, while his father’s family was Baptist.

In 1963, at the age of 21 after a six-month courtship, Gutierrez married Geraldine Chance Torres, also from Agana Heights. The couple has three children – Carla, Tommy and Hannah, and four grandchildren.

Early life

In the first few years of Gutierrez’s life, Guam was occupied by Japan and many Chamorros suffered harsh treatment. Toward the end of enemy occupation in Guam, his family, like many others, was forced to stay at the Manenggon Concentration Camp. One of his first memories is being carried out of the camp by a US Marine upon the Liberation of Guam in 1944.

Gutierrez dreamed of going to the United States as a youth. His family managed to send him to California to start his sophomore year in high school. He attended MarVista High School in Imperial Beach, California, and graduated from South San Francisco High School in San Francisco. His father died while he was away but they could not afford to bring him home for the funeral.

Within an hour after his high school graduation, Gutierrez enlisted in the United States Air Force and served for five years, from 1960-65. He was stationed in Texas, New Mexico, and then in Guam. This was during the Viet Nam era, and for a while, he was assigned to load bombs on airplanes at Andersen Air Force Base.

During his military service, Gutierrez received training in computer technology, which he used upon discharge from the service when he was asked in 1965 to set up a new Data Processing Center for the young government of Guam.

In 1971, Gutierrez started a construction company with his wife and his brother Ralph, called Carltom Enterprises. He grew this company from two employees to 120 employees, constructing residential homes as well as some large projects such as the Cabras Power Plant and the Fatima Hall in Agana Heights.

Public service

Gutierrez was first elected as a senator in 1972 serving a total of eleven terms in the Guam Legislature, in both minority and majority roles. Gutierrez was elected to the Speakership of the Guam Legislature twice, in the 17th and 18th Guam Legislatures. His first run for Governor was as an independent in 1978 with University of Guam (UOG) political science professor Dr. Jose Dizon as his running mate.

During this time, Gutierrez was elected to be the president of the federally authorized Constitutional Convention held in Guam in 1977-78, which produced a Constitution for Guam that would replace the Organic Act. The referendum to ratify this Constitution failed due to opposition by some in Guam who felt that the issue of political status should be dealt with before ratifying a constitution.

While in the Guam Legislature, Gutierrez also served as chairman to the Guam Tax Code Commission, president of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, and chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. He also was a member of the committee on budget and taxation in the National Conference of State Legislatures, and was executive committee member of the Western Legislative Conference.

While serving as Speaker of the Legislature, Gutierrez and his colleagues were recognized by the Guam Chamber of Commerce as the most pro-business Legislature in the history of Guam. He spearheaded legislation designed to stimulate the economy, authoring more than 270 public laws of Guam, as well as numerous resolutions. The most far reaching of those include the establishment of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Guam Youth Congress, the construction of 500 low cost homes, the University of Guam College of Education. He also spearheaded legislation for the prohibition of tobacco sales to minors and of smoking on outgoing and incoming aircraft to Guam, both prior to federal prohibitions.

During this time, Gutierrez competed with Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo during the 1986 primary election, splitting the Democratic Party’s loyalties. Bordallo won the primary but lost in the general election to the Republican team of Joseph Ada and Frank Blas, who held the office for two terms. After a two-year break in public service, Gutierrez was re-elected to the Guam Legislature.

From 1988-89, Gutierrez was the vice-president of the Guam Visitors Bureau and chairman of GVB’s International Marketing Committee. Gutierrez was also director of GMP Associates, secretary and member of the Board of Directors of United Micronesian Development Association (UMDA), and member of the management committee of Continental Micronesia.

Governor of Guam

In 1994, Gutierrez and Senator Madeleine Z. Bordallo joined forces to reunify the Democratic Party in a bid for the governorship. They defeated Republican candidates Speaker Tommy Tanaka and Sen. Doris Flores Brooks.

Gutierrez and Bordallo took office in January 1995, just as Guam’s economy went into a serious downturn. The government was deep in debt without adequate funds to meet payroll or pay its obligations.

Money challenges plagued Gutierrez throughout his term. To avoid payless paydays or layoffs, a drastic and unpopular prioritizing plan was implemented to pay the essentials and eliminate any unnecessary spending. This included the suspension of annual pay increments for classified employees of the government, a reduction of specialty pay and the elimination of government cell phones, private vehicles for agency heads, and a dramatic reduction in government funded travel. A bond of $115M was soon floated to refinance the outstanding debts.

Gutierrez’s management projects, outlined in his Vision 2001 Plan that he put together with leaders of Guam’s business community, included expanding the number of hotel rooms and incoming flights to accommodate 1.2 million tourists annually, increasing Guam’s water and power supply, airport and port expansion, privatizing power producing facilities of the Guam Power Authority, improving roads and constructing schools, and bringing Guam’s schools, libraries and much of the government of Guam into the age of the internet. Latte Stone Park in Hagåtña was upgraded and Puntan Dos Amantes Park (Two Lovers’ Point) was developed as a private-public partnership with Calvo Enterprises. Leases to Chamorro Land Trust land were first let for homes and agricultural development.

During his first term, Gutierrez founded the Council of Micronesian Chief Executives, the first regional organization comprising the heads of Micronesian governments. Gutierrez was also a founding member of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL) during his term as a Senator.

Guam suffered more hardships during Gutierrez’s first term as well. Korean Airlines Flight 801 crashed into a hillside in Guam on 7 August 1997 during a heavy rainfall, killing 228 out of 254 passengers. In addition to the devastating human tragedy, tourism also suffered afterwards due to the crash. A few months later, in December 1997, Super Typhoon Paka hit Guam, causing $500 million in damage. An El Niño drought with water shortages and fires followed thereafter. Responding to crises occupied the attention of government agencies; however, some progress was still made.

President Bill Clinton approved Governor Gutierrez’s request for 100 percent Federal Disaster Assistance, and thousands of displaced workers were employed under Federal Disaster Programs to clean up and repair Guam, and millions of dollars in Individual Assistance Grants and millions more for repair projects were approved and initiated.

Compact Impact Funds, provided to Guam by the federal government to offset the costs of educating and caring for Federated States of Micronesia citizens who had migrated to Guam, were directed to fund village infrastructure projects such as addressing flooding in Malesso’/Merizo, extending water and sewer lines into housing subdivisions, opening new roads and rights of way throughout the island, and opening easements in Chamorro Land Trust areas.

Second term

In 1997, between the Korean Air crash and Super Typhoon Paka, Gutierrez and Bordallo ran for a second term, this time against former Gov. Joseph F. Ada and then Sen. Felix Camacho. Although the Gutierrez-Bordallo team won, the results were challenged by Ada and Camacho. The challenge caused the Guam Election Commission to fail to certify the re-election for more than a year, during which time Republican challengers disputed the election results in court. The election challenge reached the United States Supreme Court, where the Gutierrez-Bordallo victory was ruled final in an unanimous decision.

Gutierrez’s second term in office was marked by political instability caused by the 1998 election challenges, a super majority Republican Guam Legislature (12-3), an unsuccessful gubernatorial recall movement, and the destruction of the island’s infrastructure by Super Typhoon Paka.

Gutierrez, however, soldiered on through these challenges. During Gutierrez’s second term, initiatives were made to privatize Guam Telephone Authority, implement a Solid Waste Management Plan, build a new correctional facility, and place infrastructure in the Ija Subdivision. Many initiatives, however, were frustrated due to direct opposition by the Legislature.

One high point was on 23 November 1998 when President Bill Clinton visited the people of Guam, memorializing the fallen victims of World War II, and addressing thousands of Guamanians at Adelup. People filled the streets to hear Clinton speak on the front lawn of Adelup.

Gutierrez made a significant political effort to raise the national profile of Guam. He addressed the National Press Club in Washington and was a National Co-Chair of the Clinton-Gore Re-election Campaign, raising millions of dollars.

The following year, despite scarce resources, Guam successfully hosted the South Pacific Games in 1999. Athletes from throughout the Pacific vied for medals in dozens of summer games. With the theme of “Shine in ’99,” Guam rose to the challenge of hosting thousands and showcasing the island’s hospitality.

Preservation efforts for historic landmarks such as the Malesso Kumbento, San Dionisio Church, Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, St. Joseph Church, and the MG Cook School were completed during this time by the Guam Preservation Trust using funds from building permit fees.

An increase in return of federal lands included Tiyan, Harmon Cliffline properties, Tumon Tank Farm, Australian Cable Housing, and Potts Junction. This allowed economic development on some of the lands, returned land to original landowners on other property, and the addition of new water wells to the GWA system. New roadway projects were undertaken, such as Route 16 underpass, Harmon Loop widening projects, Camp Watkins-Farenholt upgrades, and many others during this time.

The final year of the second term of the Gutierrez-Bordallo Administration was beset by the occurrence of two major typhoons. One occurred in June 2002, Typhoon Chata’an, and the other in December 2002, Super Typhoon Pongsonga. With the continued Asian Economic Crisis affecting Guam for the entire eight years, these interruptions depressed the visitor industry, leaving the island in dire straits.

As soon as Gutierrez left office, he and various cabinet members were indicted multiple times. While charges against Gutierrez were all eventually dismissed, some members of his cabinet were convicted of various white collar crimes, including former Senator Sonny Shelton, Lt. Governor Bordallo’s Chief of Staff James Sablan, and Mass Transit Manager Tony Martinez.

In 2006, former Governor Gutierrez ran again in the primary for the position of Governor with former Chief Justice Benjamin J.F. Cruz, against former Guam Delegate to Congress Robert A. Underwood and Senator Frank Aguon, Jr. Gutierrez and Cruz lost the primary, and later the Underwood-Aguon team also lost the General Election to Republican incumbent governor Felix Camacho and his running mate, Dr. Michael Cruz.

In 2010, Gutierrez was unopposed in the gubernatorial primary election and ran in the general election for Governor of Guam with Senator Frank Aguon, Jr., against the Republican Team of Eddie Baza Calvo and Ray Tenorio. The General Election resulted in a razor-thin win by the Calvo-Tenorio Team of 487 votes, after a machine recount.

Gutierrez was elected Chairman of the Democratic Party of Guam in 2011. In August 2012 he resigned the position so that he could run as a write in candidate as Public Auditor.

He maintains his residence in Agana Heights with his wife Geri and spends much of his time farming at his family ranch in Fonte with his four grandchildren.

By Joshua F. Tenorio and Shannon J. Murphy