Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang is still grieving his wife’s Tonie’s passing, but has hunkered down and came back to work at the helm of the Saipan Mayor’s Office.
In fact, unknown to many, the mayor immediately went back to the office the day after he arrived on Dec. 23, while escorting Tonie’s remains back on island for burial. That was Christmas Eve.
“I’m back and even though I’m still mourning I try to get over that by doing my work. I just go visit my wife at the cemetery everyday,” Apatang told Saipan Tribune.
He said a lot of rumors cropped up during his nearly two-month leave, the most preposterous of which is that he himself is sick and had to go off-island for treatment.
“I’ve been away for personal leave because of my wife’s situation. Some who don’t know thought I was the one who was sick. I saw it on the blog somewhere,” he said.
Even though he was off-island, Apatang said he made it a point not to neglect his duties and was just call away from staff and acting mayor Antonia Tudela, the former chairwoman of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council.
“Even when I was away I was in constant communication with Saipan Mayor’s Office special assistant Henry Hofschneider, our budget and operations manager as well as with the acting mayor.”
Apatang extended his gratitude to his staff and Tudela for manning the fort while he was taking care of his wife, who succumbed to an undisclosed illness last Dec. 13 while on medical referral in Hawaii.
“Even when I was away, the people here, the mayor’s staff, were still here doing their responsibilities. They can see them all over the island. They go out under the sun all day long from 8 o’clock in the morning until 4:30pm they’re working hard for the people of the community.”
On Tudela, Apatang said, “We communicated well. She calls me and I call the office almost every day also while I was in Hawaii to see what was going on. She advised me on what’s happening and we pretty much worked together.”
The mayor said his office intends to continue its beautification projects on Saipan, knowing that an unkempt environment is a sure way of driving away visitors.
“Our major activities here are beautification of the island and trying to keep the island as clean as much as possible,” he said.
One such plan on the pipeline is to improve the flowerbeds around the roads’ center islands and replace the cut up water bottles that hold the flowers with something more permanent and attractive.
Apatang also wants to make the trail to Old Man by The Sea more accessible by building a parking lot near the site.
“Right now tourists have to park their cars on the side of the road and walk all the way down there. What I’m trying to do is come up with a plan. Public Lands already made a survey down there and we’re going to put a parking lot so tourists can park their vehicles and walk the path down there. I’m still working with regulatory agencies that are in charge of permitting those activities,” he said.
Apatang emphasized, though, that his beautification plans wouldn’t bear fruit without the cooperation of other government agencies.
“I will be working with Public Works, Parks and Rec[reation], and the Marianas Visitors Authority in doing all these beautification projects. We work together and cooperate as a team,” he said.