Corina Magofna has an easy smile and her honesty about life and her plans will give you a peek at the life she lives and the life she wants to share.
After finishing middle school at Hopwood, she and her family moved to Washington state where she lived for 20 years. But even while away, her parents made sure that the values and traditions of the islands were continuously ingrained into her and her siblings.
Magofna ran for a representative seat in Precinct 3 last year. She lost by 39 votes but, instead of fretting, she saw it as an opportunity and described it as a blessing in disguise—a chance to reset and stay with the goal. Magofna said she came back to Saipan because she wanted to make a difference and contribute to the CNMI’s growth. With her education and work experience from several top 500 companies in tow, Magofna came back to Saipan six years ago, reconnecting with family, immersing herself more in the culture and familiarizing herself with current events. She put her finance and accounting background to use by working as a budget officer at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., where she had a lightbulb moment.
“Landing a job as a budget officer at CUC was a good start…[but] one day, I woke up thinking that one of the big issues in the CNMI is the handling of government finances. I thought that, since I am in the field of finance and budget, this path actually allows me to use my knowledge with regard to money—how to create revenue for the CNMI and how to manage it for the people of the CNMI,” she said.
Magofna stressed that her decision to run for political office was all her. “Although I talked to my husband and family, I wanted to do this on my own, without having any influence from either side of my family, telling me why I should go this way or that way. I wanted to make that decision on my own so that I can hold myself accountable for the decisions and actions that I’ve made.”
Thankfully for her, her family has been supportive. “They know I am a very determined person, they believe in my cause and they have been supportive about everything,” she added.
Cliché as it may sound but Magofna believes that honesty is the best policy. “I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to make something up. It is sometimes to my detriment that I am very honest and not many people are keen about that. … I would rather have someone be brutally honest with me so I know what they are thinking about a certain matter so we can talk about it…,” she said
“There’s always going to be disagreements, and that’s given. As long as there is mutual respect and understanding of what the goal is, then it is easy to move forward if all the cards are on the table. …I would not compromise honesty. …In my profession, I am accountable to ensure that the company is in good hands with respect to finances, that is why I take honesty very seriously and over the years, it is a part of who I am,” she added. “…I’ve worked in publicly-traded companies and there would be times when we have to close books in three days because this needs to be shared with the stakeholders and the public. …We also follow federal rules and regulations…so it is very systematic and very structured because these companies are held to very high standards,” she said.
Magofna said her exposure to finance and budget systems and procedures in the U.S. mainland have molded her to have a structured way of thinking. She sees this as a potential rather than failing and it is a tell on how she plans to work with colleagues in the Legislature and lead her constituents. “When I explain things, I really try my best to help you walk through the process that any person can understand. …Allot time to explain, make people understand what the goal is and make them know that they are a part of the big picture, which is very true to the core. Without them you don’t have a strong foundation,” she added.
With the House of Representatives known as the “purse” of the Legislature, Corina sees her bid to join the House as her first step in helping the CNMI “…because this is where bills are created and where enforcement starts to make sure we capture those revenues. …I hope I get the opportunity and if people do not see that, it doesn’t stop there as I am sure that there are other ways to contribute my assistance in different capacities,” she said.
“I consider everything as baby steps and if you really want something, you will find ways to do it. When it’s genuine and it comes from the heart, no obstacles will be in the way, especially if it is for the best interest of the CNMI. …And if we can have people know that the government is truly for them, then it’s a start for them to have faith and hope,” she added.