Suva, Fiji, 09 March 2021 – Lieutenant Lareina Camacho is one of the 32 percent of women who work for the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Customs (CNMI) after joining in 2017. She is the special assistant to the director at the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Customs Department.

This is her story.

Special Assistant, CNMI Customs, Lt. Lareina C. Camacho

In Spanish, “La Reina” means the queen. To some extent, Lareina or “Reina” as she is commonly known plays the role of a queen- she has to ensure that CNMI Customs speaks the same “language”, that all customs officers understand and enforce customs laws and procedures uniformly.

“I rarely have a typical day at CNMI Customs, so accomplishing each day’s set of challenges is fulfilling,” Reina says. Her daily responsibilities range from coordinating and developing training for customs personnel, preparing correspondences, organizing data, developing reports, strategic plans, and responding to stakeholder inquiries and concerns.

“I also serve as the point of contact or public information officer and assist other government agencies on customs-related inquiries. With the onset of COVID19 in the CNMI, I am also responsible for procuring and distributing personnel protective equipment and supplies, as well as overseeing the processing of requisitions, purchase orders, and contracts.”

Her journey

Reina joined CNMI Customs in December and was commissioned the rank of Lieutenant. Before joining CNMI Customs, Reina was the manager for the Pesticides and Storage Tank Branch at the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality for more than ten years, responsible for supervising the inspections and compliance of regulated facilities pertaining to fuel tanks and pesticide use, sale, or import.

Prior to this, she served as the special assistant to the president at the Northern Marianas College.

A graduate of Seattle University, Seattle, Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration in 1998, Reina is very much a public servant of the NMI, having served and continues to remain active in various private and public organizations.

“Leadership styles vary greatly and I work best when I am guided and allowed flexibility. When an opportunity to work for Customs was presented, I was eager to engage in a new field with new challenges and networking,” she says.

Though in a male-dominated industry, Reina believes women bring more value to the organization.

“Collectively our work ethic is greater. Women have a better understanding and implementation of time management and are more productive in order to be considered for promotions. I would describe my work ethic as reliable and engaging,” she says.

“When asked to perform a task, I do so willingly. I enjoy my work and I like to be productive. One of the CNMI Customs’ core values is Integrity. I truly embrace the philosophy of doing the right thing even when no one is observing. Responsibility and integrity are virtues that I hope I’m passing on to my son and daughter through my daily actions and conversations,” she adds.

Reina also assists the director in implementing programs consistent with the World Customs Organization (WCO) as well as Oceania Customs Organization (OCO) programs to ensure CNMI Customs complies with international standards.

“I am still trying to facilitate change within the division in order to improve efficiency,” she says.

“The process has been slow-moving, however, each week, we are making progress. The changes include building electronic files in order to establish databases; ensuring the proper recording of useful data in order to apply for grant funding, ensuring officers implement objectives and lessons from training events.

Since COVID-19, Reina’s responsibilities have expanded to providing personal protective equipment gear, and uniforms for CNMI Customs officers.

“The workload or tasks alone have not impacted my work life, rather it has been the near-elimination of social interactions,” she says.

“The in-person meetings have reduced drastically and I estimate that 90 percent are conducted online. Wearing a mask (face covering) at the office, all day, all week is not comfortable; but, we do so because we want to ensure safety for our own selves and co-workers and it is also required by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

“There are always lessons to learn from any experience and taking the time to reflect is important. I like to ask myself, “what did I accomplish today?”

“This is how I find meaning and purpose in my life, personally and professionally.”

On the home front, Reina has two beautiful children, Reef (6 years) and Mayumi (4 years) who keep her busy as well.

As much as she is committed to her work with CNMI Customs, Reina still finds time to be involved in the community.
This year, she was nominated as a Parent Leader in her daughter’s school for her engagement and participation in school activities.

As a nominee, she is an advocate for the health, safety, and welfare of CNMI children and families.

In the last decade, Reina has also been part of the Marianas March Against Cancer, the signature fundraising event of the Commonwealth Cancer Association.

She has served in various officer capacities in the Rotary Club of Saipan and 13th Saipan & Northern Islands Municipal Council from 2015-2017 and she was re-elected as the Chairperson for the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, anti-domestic violence and sexual assault organization with a mission to further the movement to end violence in the CNMI.

Future aspirations

“By 2025, my aspiration for CNMI Customs is to streamline efficiency through the reduction of paper-use by 50 percent and increase electronic filings and payments and increase capacity by coordinating a minimum of 120 hours of training for every officer pertaining to risk management, federal and state policy and regulation changes, and intellectual property rights. In the meantime, I am focused on developing growth mindsets, starting with supervisors, so that I have their support and cooperation to ensure all personnel are on board with the proposals of change.”

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For more information or for any queries, please contact the Secretariat or email:

Our Gender Program: In 2019, the OCO held its inaugural Change Management on Gender Equality workshop, which suggested there should be gender equality in all aspects of OCO’s work program. This suggestion was endorsed at the 2020 OCO Annual Conference. In 2020, OCO member countries were encouraged to celebrate International Women’s Day in their own administrations and to share their activities widely. This year, OCO is dedicating the month of March to our women. The Pacific Women in Customs Series is a collection of stories of women who are working in Customs in their various countries and we hope to inspire more women to join this field of work.

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