NAVFAC Marianas financial management director retires from federal government service

by Catherine Cruz Norton
NAVFAC

PITI, Guam – After a stellar career of nearly 51 years, Rosita Santos Wright, financial management director of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas retired from federal government service Jan. 11. Wright’s career has been highlighted by trailblazing accomplishments and a host of awards that were the result of her determination to accomplish her goals in the face of hardship.

Wright was the first woman and the first Chamorro to hold the positions of budget officer and comptroller at Public Works Center (PWC) Guam – what is today NAVFAC Marianas. Her impressive list of job-related awards begins with a Sustained Superior Performance Award in 1971, when she was an accounting technician at Naval Supply Depot (NSD) just prior to her assignment to PWC.

Her subsequent awards include nine Quality Step Increases, 15 Superior Outstanding Awards, selection as Woman of the Year for PWC Guam and again for PWC Subic Bay, and two Civilian Meritorious Awards. In 2014, she became the first NAVFAC Marianas employee and the first member of the NAVFAC financial management community to receive the highly prestigious Peggy B. Craig Lifetime Service Award, for which civilians in all NAVFAC commands are eligible.

Wright was born in the no-longer-inhabited village of Sumay in 1942, during the Japanese occupation of Guam. Following the war, her family moved to Santa Rita where she grew up, the oldest of 15 children. As is often the case, as the oldest child she was tasked with household chores as well as caring for her younger brothers and sisters. As a result, she developed a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility, which have served her well throughout her life.

She was an excellent student, and was told she had a photographic memory. She took honors classes at Academy of Our Lady of Guam and was seemingly bound for college.

She left school, however, in 1960 after completing 10th grade to marry Harry Wright, a Marine from Hawaii where they lived for two years. The couple returned to Guam with their daughter Genevieve, their oldest who was followed over the next eight years by five sons: Harry, Robert, Lawrence, Michael and Gordon.

She now has 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Her husband Harry died in 1993 and son Michael in 1995.

To improve her job prospects, Wright took the GED test in 1965. She passed the GED easily with a near-perfect score in math and was hired to work as a clerk for the government of Guam.

Then, on Feb. 7, 1967 she began her career with the federal government as a mail clerk at Naval Ship Repair Facility Guam at the GS-2 pay level. She advanced quickly - to GS-3 and then GS-4 within the first year. In 1970 she was promoted to GS-5 while at NSD and then joined PWC under the Upward Mobility program where she went to GS-7 in 1972, GS-9 the following year and GS-11 in 1977.

Realizing she needed a degree to continue to advance, she attended evening classes and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland and then a master’s in human resource management and development from Chapman University. She completed her master’s while working at PWC at Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines from 1985 to 1990.

Despite the demands of her studies and full-time employment Wright always put the interests of her family first. She often, for example, cooked dinner for her children and husband the night before her classes so they would have a wholesome meal even when she could not be there.

Looking back at her career, Wright prides herself on delivering quality budgets and financial reports on time. “It always has to balance, even if it’s 1 cent,” she said. “I want to make sure there are no errors and I want it to be timely. I always want to be first.”

The financial management staff she oversees is known for its competence and its cohesiveness. These can be attributed to Wright’s management style. “The key to success is trust and respect,” she said. “In all my 51 years, I’ve never written anyone up. I’ve counseled, but I always find a way to improve and not fail.”

Though she retired from the federal government, Wright believes in being productive throughout her life and is planning to teach part-time, or perhaps to earn a doctorate.

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