A chat with the new Pohnpei State Chief of Staff Sue Lowe Gallen

By Marstella E. Jack

 MG 0355 Edit 2 copySuzanne Lowe Gallen is a household name in FSM, and so it was just as well Governor Oliver decided to hire her as his Chief of Staff making her the first female ever to hold a Chief of Staff position in the entire FSM since constitutional government in 1979, the same year she was born. Sue has an extensive public service background, going as far back as a foreign service officer with FSM Department of Foreign Affairs in 2004…..which is sort of how we cemented our professional relationship…we are both products of FSM Foreign Affairs (or maybe by-products?)

I wanted to do a piece on her new role, and how fitting it is that she started on February 2nd, a few short weeks away from International Women’s Day March 8, 2020. While FSM women rightfully celebrate the day with dances, cultural exhibits and various other activities to showcase their appreciation for being recognized as nurturers – grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunties, nieces, PhD scholars, students, Bank Presidents, lawmakers, judges, community leaders, confidants, counselors, doctors, lawyers, police officers and most especially for being teachers, it was so right that the new Chief of Staff for the Pohnpei administration is none other than Sue herself. Sue prides herself in what she does. She believes that people should do what they can with they have, from wherever they are. Moreover, she is confident that the role of women in today’s society can be further enhanced and that they can help promote development in all walks of life.

I asked her about her first day in office.

“Well it’s my first time to work at the state level and I’m still trying to gain my footing. There’s a lot of ‘wahu’, and while that is a great thing, I am still trying to figure out how it can be more conducive to government efficiency. Also, I was disheartened when this lady walked into my office and asked if I wanted coffee.  It turned out she is not even the secretary, but has a more facilitative role in the government. I would’ve welcomed an update on her area of responsibility…..but not coffee. Women just naturally feel that they are obligated to get the coffee…why?”

Good question!!

The bigger impression was how she is overwhelmed with the tremendous amount of work that is needed to get the smaller issues sorted out—not revenue sharing and Compact renegotiation, but just basic administrative matters involving standard operating procedures (SOPs), performance evaluations, property/asset inventory and management, compound security strengthening, maintenance issues, littering in the office compound, personnel training and institutional strengthening, and many other issues.

When asked about cabinet nominations, she said she is not involved but she has been tasked with the responsibility to recommend names for the various state Board nominations. Apparently some of these statutory Boards have been dormant since the early 2000s.

I asked her why she took the job when the salary is less than half of what she was making before. “

“Well, sometimes it’s not even the salary that is a determining factor. Pohnpei State needs all the help right now. It seems like all the good talent ends up at the National Government—rightly so because that’s where all the money is. Meanwhile, people at the state level are suffering. How can we expect people to go to school and want to come back to a $200 or $300 biweekly paycheck? That’s why everyone is leaving. We can’t blame them for wanting to leave and have a better life. For me, I truly believe in this administration. Every time I start second guessing my decision, the Governor has a way with words that just inspires me to my core and reinforces my conviction that Pohnpei State can and will be better.”

You stay in the office up to 7 or 8pm on most days. As a mother of 3 with a baby, how do you do it?

“Well it’s not easy when you have to drive to U village to breastfeed during lunchtime. This made me

realize that the government needs family friendly offices so that nursing mothers can bring their babies to work and breastfeed when needed. I intend to suggest this to the administration to see if we can incorporate it into the renovation proposal, or shortly afterwards. It would definitely improve punctuality and productivity levels. Furthermore, my husband, Dr. Padwick Gallen is a huge help because we share the parenting responsibility, and it makes it so much easier on me. He is a busy doctor but he still provides the constant support I need and I am forever grateful for that.”

What is your advice to Pohnpei government employees?

“Please take GREAT PRIDE in what you do because the end result of your work reflects on your own personal work ethic, and Pohnpeians are not lazy people.”

I couldn’t agree more. Enginkehlap is the engine for this new administration but I say Lirorohki Pohnpei should be the driving force.

Sue Lowe Gallen is a graduate of Xavier High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Hawaii (Manoa) in 2003. She joined Foreign Affairs in 2004 and went on to receive a Certificate in Diplomacy from Chinese Foreign Affairs University, then a Certificate in Pacific Diplomacy from USP, and a recipient of Post Graduate Certificate in Diplomatic Studies at Oxford University in England in 2008. The most recent award is the post graduate diploma in development studies from USP in 2015. At present time, Sue is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Development Studies on Thesis: “The Mis-trusteeship: the case of disunity and the secession movement in the FSM”.

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