Biography of Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
Eddie Baza Calvo is the eighth elected Governor of Guam. He and his runningmate, Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio, won the General Elections of November 2010 and were inaugurated January 3, 2011. They faced enormous odds upon assuming office.
The Odds of Stabilizing and Improving Services
The Governor inherited a deficit of tax refunds and vendor payables nearing $400 million by the end of Fiscal Year 2011. To put this staggering deficit into perspective, it amounts to nearly four-fifths of what typically are annual operating revenues just north of half-a-billion dollars from the General Fund. The deficit created a severe and nearly unmanageable cash flow situation, endangering the government’s ability to provide even for operational obligations. Governor Calvo made unpopular decisions to ensure the availability of cash for payroll and to continue paying tax refunds. He ordered immediate austerity, including the rollback of government pay raises and a freeze on increments.
Governor Calvo ordered the reduction of his pay and the salaries of the Lieutenant Governor and their senior staff to set the example in fiscal discipline. It was also meant to send a message to the legislature that fundamental change was needed in the fiscal policy and habits of a government living well beyond its means for two decades. The Governor simultaneously imposed an unprecedented 15 percent reserve on allotments to all executive branch agencies, forcing the departments to curb spending even further. This led to attrition in the government workforce, among other cost-cutting efforts.
The savings generated from the Governor’s aggressive orders went to pay down the debt of tax refunds. Together with two series of bonds to finance the tax refunds debt, Governor Calvo paid out about $350 million in tax refunds in one fiscal year alone. That is the highest amount of tax refunds paid in one year in the history of the government of Guam, a true signal of the Governor’s commitment to pay his people what they were owed.
Calvo’s Fight Against Poverty
While the payment of the deficit was pivotal to the stabilization and improvement of government services, the payment of the refunds had the significant effect of improving the quality of life of thousands of the most downtrodden Guamanians. The deficit was not the only escalating problem when the Governor took office; poverty was also on the rise. In only one decade the number of Guamanians enrolled in the food stamp program had doubled.
The payment of tax refunds returned thousands of dollars each into the hands of struggling families at one time. Building on this momentum, the Governor started an Affordable Housing Initiative with the goal of building 3,000 affordable homes by 2017. This initiative includes the rehabilitation of poor communities, bringing water and wastewater services to those who can’t afford the infrastructure, and the return of ancestral lands. First Lady Christine Calvo joined in the Governor’s fight against poverty, starting the Rigalu Foundation to help foster children, promote athletics, and promoting early childhood education.
Education & the Future of the Island
It is this focus on children that drives the signature pieces of Governor Calvo’s tenure. While he has absolutely no statutory authority over the operations of the Department of Education, Governor Calvo took a huge political risk and now is leading the effort for significant education reform. The Governor could not sit back and watch the system carry forward years of dismal academic performance without fidelity to curriculum and standards. Looking toward the long-term viability of the island, the Governor saw the disconnect between the standards of the workforce and the performance of students by the time they graduate, if they graduated. He brought the community together to develop a plan for education reform, one which swaps the 100-year-old American education system of inputs with one that values standards and outputs in a classroom culture of collaboration that embraces technology.
But the breadth of the Governor’s vision of Guam goes so much further than the current or even short-term future needs of the workforce. In the Governor’s vision of Guam far into the future, he sees an island teeming with prosperity driven by new and exciting industries. These industries, in his vision, are built by the skill and innovation of a robust, diverse, and independent workforce. In his vision, that workforce is molded by a standards-based education second to none in the world right in our public schools today. In order to realize this vision, the Governor has started with his education reform agenda, which will then align to workforce and economic development strategies. The three components will be brought together through the Governor’s IMAGINE Guam initiative, a community vision and strategy for Guam unlike any other roadmap the island has ever seen.
As the Governor improves public services and infrastructure, modernizes the government, fights poverty, and builds upon a strong vision for the future, he has been pursuing every avenue to bring investments into the island. These investments add to the growing economic base, helping to create job and business opportunities for Guamanians. He went to our largest markets for tourism and where Asian markets carried the potential for investors to bring their money to Guam. He personally marketed the island’s opportunities, encouraging powerhouse corporations in Japan, China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hawaii to set up shop in a variety of existing and proposed industries. Investors have been pouring into the island since these trade missions, many now doing business in Guam.
Governor Calvo simultaneously pursued growth in the tourism industry, Guam’s main economic engine accounting for billions in economic activity and thousands of jobs. He succeeded in convincing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to grant the parole authority for Russian nationals to visit the island without the long process of securing a travel visa. The government of Guam had campaigned for years for this parole authority. The Governor now is working to secure the same authority for Chinese tourists to visit the island under a similar visa waiver program.
Part of his promise to investors and to Guam’s business community is to make it easier to do business on Guam. By his orders the government is undergoing an extensive process improvement review, which will lead to major deregulation and efficiency in how government regulates and permits the private sector.
Where He Came From; Who He Truly is
Eddie Baza Calvo was born on August 29, 1961, the middle child of former Governor and First Lady Paul McDonald and Rose Herrero Baza Calvo. He grew up in Maite with his sisters Vera, Katherine, Barbara, Marie, Reyna and Clare, and his older brother Paul.
He attended Father Duenas Memorial School before moving to California, where he graduated from St. Francis High School in Mountain View in 1979. He then enrolled at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1983.
Upon his return to Guam, Calvo at age 22 worked his way through the ranks at Pacific Construction Company in east Hagatna. He worked in the warehouse before shifting through the aisles of the store as a sales representative, eventually becoming general manager after serving under the tutelage of his mentor, Matt Lonac.
The budding business executive then moved to Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Guam as Vice President and General Manager. By the time he left the company, it had expanded its footprint into the region and was acclaimed a top performing company in the global Pepsi establishment.
During his quick rise through the private sector, Eddie Baza Calvo met the woman who would be his lifelong partner in progress, the former Christine Lujan Sonido. They married in 1987 and raised six beautiful children: Edward, Vinson, Rosae, Paul Jerome, Melva, and Celine. The couple has recently been blessed with two grandsons, Eden and Sabian.
Governor Calvo is fond of saying his family is his “rock,” the foundation of his life. They have supported him throughout his political career, which began when he successfully campaigned for the Guam Legislature in 1998. Between 1999 and 2010 he served five terms as a senator, serving also as vice speaker, acting speaker, and chairman of the legislative finance, public works and health committees.
These were years filled with political tumult, oftentimes leaving then-Senator Calvo wondering whether he would return to the private sector. His family, however, gave him the support he needed to persevere, even after he and his mentor in public service, the late Speaker Antonio R. Unpingco lost their bid for the island’s highest offices in the Primary Election of 2002.
Governor Calvo is a plain-spoken man, who can regularly be seen in the community speaking with the people and helping them. He is a man of deep faith, guided more by Christian values than any rule of politics. He is an avid reader and student of history and a former athlete. He has never wavered in his decades-long support for his beloved San Francisco 49ers.