The Department of Lands and Natural Resources lost an important member of its team yesterday morning with the unexpected passing of Secretary Richard Seman. He was 55 years old.
It was learned that Seman was brought to the Commonwealth Health Center around 6am yesterday morning and was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of his death was not immediately disclosed.
Flags were flown at half-staff in government offices and the Legislature after news of his passing came out. Message of condolences also poured in on social media sites.
Seman s survived by his wife Lorraine, and children Vinycia, Richard, Jon, Anthony, and Lorisha, and his grandchildren.
Seman was born on Feb. 26, 1962. In his 55 years of life, Seman took on many roles and served the Commonwealth not just as DLNR chief but also as a lawmaker and Fish and Wildlife director.
A respected public servant, Seman was also known as an advocate for the preservation of the environment, especially marine life, according to Seman’s close friends.
As DLNR secretary, Seman held the post for over four years. He was the department’s head from 2004 to 2006 and resumed office again in January 2015 until his passing.
According to Seman’s LinkeIn profile, he supervised the directors of Lands and Surveys, Fish and Wildlife, Parks and Recreation, and Agriculture. He was responsible for the lease and management of the CNMI’s submerged lands, from the high waterline for up to three miles.
Seman started his career as a director for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. He stayed in this job for more than five years, from April 1998 until January 2004. Seman also served as a director for the Division of Agriculture for over a year, serving from December 2008 until July 2010.
He moved back to the DFW but as an aquatic educational specialist. He served in this division for over a year starting in April 2011 until January 2013.
For over five years, Seman was also the publisher and editor of the Marianas Fishing magazine.
Seman was also a representative in the 18th Legislature and served for about four years before returning as DLNR secretary in 2015.
Seman was also an active member of several boards such as the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and president of the CNMI Fisherman’s Marketing Association. He was also an amateur photographer.
In a statement yesterday morning, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his wife Diann, together with Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog extended their condolences to Seman’s family, saying the DLNR chief was passionate about his family, faith, the CNMI’s people, and the islands.
Torres said Seman dedicated his public service career in preserving and protecting the environment when he worked in the CNMI government in multiple capacities.
“We remember a public servant and environmentalist who deeply cared for our land and our ocean so that our children, grandchildren, and generations down can enjoy our island’s beauty for years to come,” Torres said. “He was also very passionate in conducting educational outreach for our students to foster a sense of environmental stewardship within our community.”
“As a passionate environmentalist, he tirelessly worked in protecting our region’s pelagic resources so that our future generations could enjoy the bounty of our oceans. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Lorraine, his children and his grandchildren.”
DLNR administrative officer Barrie Toves said that Seman, with whom he was close to, became one of his sources in all matters pertaining to land, ocean wildlife, and natural resource issues.
According to Toves, Seman was very supportive as the department’s head as well as a friend.
“I will remember him as a humble man, full of kindness and compassion. …Richard was instrumental in the fruition of the Rota West Harbor small boat marina project development,” he said. “I pray the Lord gives comfort to his [Seman’s] loved ones during this time of need.”
Toves and Seman first met when Seman was still serving as a representative in the 18th Legislature.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) was shocked to learn of Seman’s passing and remembered their days serving at the Division of Fish and Wildlife. “I am saddened and shocked of the sudden passing of my friend.”
“It was not too long ago when Richard and I were reminiscing on the many years we have known each other, and of our common passion in preserving and protecting our environment and our natural resources, and how that has strengthened our friendship.”
Palacios said Seman was one of the respected persons in the community and is a fond friend to a lot of people. “I will miss my friend. May he rest in peace. On behalf of the members of the Senate and our families, I wish to convey our deepest condolences to Richard’s family. May they find peace and comfort in God’s love during their time of mourning.”
House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) joined his colleagues in extending the House’s condolences to the family. He also thanked Seman for the chance of serving with him in the 18th Legislature.
“I was shocked to hear of his untimely passing. I had the privilege to work with him when he was a representative. He was very caring in helping our citizens and he had the vision having a better Commonwealth. A great man. Condolences and prayers to him and the family.”
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) said he was saddened to learn of the passing of Seman, who always tell that he’s everyone’s favorite uncle. “It is so very sad to hear of the passing of Secretary Seman. Our deepest condolences and prayers to his family during this most grievous time.”
“Too many good people leaving too soon. Godspeed, Mr. Secretary. He always joked about being everyone’s favorite uncle and he really was. He made us all laugh every time he was around.”
Demapan added that he was pleased to work with Seman the last two weeks on two measures, House Bills 20-64 or the Fisheries Act and 20-65 or bioprospecting—the search for plants or animal species where medicinal drugs and other commercially valuable products can be obtained, that he had supported.
“Today, as my family and I make our way to Majuro to lay my mother-in-law to rest, our hearts are heavy with the news of the passing of Uncle Richard. We will dearly miss his laughter, his love of family, and his advice. Deskånsa gi pås, tihun-måmi,” said Demapan.
Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) remembers the time he and Seman spent campaigning for the 19th CNMI Legislature. “I ran with him in the 19th Legislature and there were four of us so we branded ourselves as the “Fantastic 4.’”
“I did manage to be part of the campaign trail with him. I lost a friend, somebody that is also knowledgeable of the Legislature, and most especially, our lands and natural resources. He is a very humble person and a true advocate of the environment.”
Guerrero said he didn’t know that Monday’s proclamation signing for Oral Cancer Awareness Month would be the last time he was going to spend with Seman. “He was standing right next to me for the photo session and we were joking. I even asked him, ‘How are you, Mr. Secretary?’ He was just smiling all day. I’m really saddened that we lost someone like him.”
“I just pray that his family would feel better and my thoughts are with them in this time of grief. Last week, we buried one from our law enforcement agencies, [CNMI] probation officer John Del Rosario. Last February, it was Northern Islands Mayor Jerome Aldan. It is sad when you see people who you know and close to pass away.”
Guerrero added that the Saipan Fishing Derby and the Mahi Mahi Derby would never be the same, now that Seman is gone. “The fishing derby and mahi mahi derby is going to be somber this year. Seman is a number one supporter of these events; he’s there from day one to the banquet.” (with Jon Perez)