By Lori Lyn Lirio
THE millennials are starting to gun for public office in Saipan with the candidacy of the former information officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation.
Samantha “Sami” A’ani Birmingham-Babauta said she decided to run for a seat in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives to represent women and her generation.
“I decided to run because I wanted to do more work than just going to the podium – saying my piece, sharing my voice – to try to change things from the other side of the system,” she said.
“I want to have an opportunity to be in the system and really be able to draft the legislation in partnership with agencies.”
From her experience, she said, people get legislation that drafted without partnership with agencies and this often result to “not really what they need to be stronger and do what they need to be done.”
“The power of conversation is so important. We don’t have enough communication between the two sides and it always feels like two separate systems working against each other. My goal is always have one fluid system working together and building each agency with what they actually need and what is necessary for the community and the people,” she said.
Birmingham-Babauta’s latest experience with the House of Representatives was when during the public hearing of House Bill 20-149, a bill that seeks to revert the CHCC under the central government. She was one of the people who opposed the H.B. 20-149. The bill later got shelved.
“If you wonder why my generation doesn’t enjoy coming home and working for the CNMI, it’s because we do our best, we come home, and we have to keep fighting with you [the Legislation] to let us do good work,” Birmingham-Babauta said.
“My generation is always being told, ‘You are the future’, but we need to start being the now. I’m applying for a new job to do work on a larger platform and I hope to encourage more new faces to join me in the coming elections,” she explained.
Birmingham-Babauta started working for the hospital as health policy writer and then researcher. She is now the current PIO.
“That is where I got my exposure to CNMI government and how the system work – working with legislature, reading all the logs related to the hospital, and reading the bill that introduced and then trying to figure out ways how the bill could be better for the people and the hospital,” she said.
“There are some systems that could do harm or could do bigger impact,” she added.
“Having a lot of exposure and a lot of frustration motivated me to make the decision to run. Before, it has always been a thought. I told myself ‘why not?’ There’s no woman up there, there’s no millennial up there. It is an election year, I am applying for a new job. Why not apply for Legislature with the people as my entire application panel,” she said.
Birmingham-Babauta said she would focus on issues that are close to her – healthcare system, people’s access to healthcare, mental health and environmental health, especially the illegal dumping.
“There are issues that pop up all over. Issues experienced by everybody,” she said.
Birmingham-Babauta was born and raised on Saipan, going to both Saipan Southern High School and graduating from Marianas High School before completing her first year of college at the University of Guam.
She transferred to California State University Northridge (CSUN), where she graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology.
Before becoming the CHCC’s PIO, she served as the research associate for Policy, Sustainability, and Development, and was responsible for tracking CNMI legislation related to health and CHCC.
Birmingham-Babauta is the CNMI’s first Gates Millennium Scholar in 2011.
“I’m humbly seeking the ability to represent my community further than just at the podium in the chamber, but through having a seat at the table,” she stated.
Birmingham-Babauta is the daughter of Linda Birmingham, former owner of Black and White and Samantha’s Passion and current educator at Hopwood Jr. High School and Donald Borja Babauta “Samo”, former department of public safety police officer.