Benavente tapped to help MVA


Vicky Benavente

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has granted the request of Marianas Visitors Authority board chair Viola Alepuyo to have Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente help MVA in the event it takes awhile to find a new managing director for the agency.

“She has experience and will move forward on the progress MVA has done,” Torres told Saipan Tribune yesterday, referring to Benavente who had worked with MVA for many years and previously served as MVA managing director.

Alepuyo said last night that because Benavente has previously served as MVA managing director, she asked the governor if Benavente could assist MVA if it takes time to look for a new managing director.

“The governor has granted my request and Ms. Benavente has graciously agreed to help MVA in whatever way she can,” Alepuyo said.

She said she informed MVA deputy managing director Judy Torres during a recent board meeting that Benavente is ready and willing to help.

Alepuyo said that MVA managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo had to leave the board meeting to attend to some personal matters and did not return to the meeting.

Alepuyo said she, however, called Iakopo and informed her about the board’s concerns and about the availability of Benavente to assist.

Iakopo recently resigned as MVA managing director to support her husband, Stanley T. Iakopo, who has also resigned as executive officer of the CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs.

Priscilla Iakopo’s resignation will be effective Nov. 3, 2022.

Alepuyo clarified that the board has not appointed Benavente as the interim managing director.

However, Alepuyo said, in the coming days, they will consult Iakopo and Judy Torres and do whatever is best to ensure there is no disruption to the programs at MVA.

She noted that jumpstarting the tourism industry for the community is the most important goal for the MVA board, management, and staff.

The chair said the board is very concerned about MVA and all the programs and projects that they currently have going on.

“We are also very concerned about finding someone with leadership skills and experience in the tourism industry to take over as managing director,” Alepuyo said.

She said Judy Torres is the MVA deputy managing director, but she has her own responsibilities and is also doing the work of critical positions that are currently vacant.

Alepuyo said currently, MVA is still looking to fill critical positions such as director of human resources, accounting, administrative services, and others.

The chair said as the board has advised the Legislature during public hearings and during previous board meetings that MVA is severely understaffed because they are unable to hire qualified applicants and pay them the salary they deserve.

In June 2004, Benavente officially served as MVA managing director, replacing Jonas Ogren. Prior to her appointment as MVA managing director, she served as MVA deputy managing director from 1988 until her appointment as MVA managing director.

Benavente started as a management intern and marketing assistant under the then-Marianas Visitors Bureau in 1988.

She served as an executive administrative assistant for Pacific Islands Club from December 2008 to July 2016. In November 2017, the Senate confirmed her appointment as Labor secretary.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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