A Man With a Plan

March 20, 2017 Nestor Licanto

The third time was the charm for Joe S. San Agustin. He had run unsuccessfully for a seat in the legislature twice before, but didn’t let the losses get him down. Joe also knew exactly what he would be getting into if he won because his father told him what to expect. “If you want to get involved in politics just be careful, because politics is not a nice place to be. But if you want to help folks, it‘s the place to be.”  Joe S. is the son of long-time Senator and Legislative Speaker Joe T. San Agustin.

Actually, as a young man Joe S. never wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He believed he was more suited to emulating his grandfather, who was a former chief of police. “Law enforcement was my first calling. As a police officer, I tried to avoid politics. I graduated from the 19th cycle and spent seven years as a detective,” he revealed.

It was also as a police officer that he nurtured another life-long passion. “I was a motorcycle cop, and I’m a motorcycle enthusiast,” Joe S. said. He is a member of five different local motorcycle clubs. “I just change my gear depending on which one I happen to be riding with,” he said with a grin.

There is a trip that all bikers aspire to take: the annual motorcycle rally to Sturgis, South Dakota. Sturgis is the acclaimed Mecca of the motorcycle world, where tens of thousands of riders gather annually. The rally will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year. Joe S. has done it twice, although it helps that his wife Joanne is also a biker. “She has her own bike. She loves riding too,” he said.    

Joe S. said it’s not just the gathering that draws them, but also the cross-country ride to get there. “When you ride a bike you’re not confined. You know there’s a freedom you have when you’re on a bike. You get to see everything. You get to see the mountains. You get to see the beauty of the place that you’re riding through. Even here in Guam you see things that you miss when you drive around in a car.”

The multi-faceted new senator served in the U.S. military, and is an Army retiree. He was most recently an investigator for the Department of Revenue and Taxation. He also served six years on the Guam Department of Education policy board. “I ran (for the Board) because I saw what was happening in the schools. I had a son who was going to Simon Sanchez. Everybody’s always worried about the right political move; no, if you got a problem go in there and find a way to help them. Don’t come up with excuses why we’ll let the board handle it, or we’ll let the governor handle it. No, go out there and fix it. I’m willing to listen and find ways to help them,” Joe S. explained.

He acknowledged that he is fortunate to have been selected as Chairman of the Committee on Education, and has already met with various education officials. “I’m going to find ways to help them do what they need to do, and at the least cost to the government. We don’t have to keep dumping money into a well and expect it to come up with spring water. No, no, no the spring water’s there, we just need to fix the pump.

He continued, “I’m in the position now, being a senator, that I can really get in there and help the schools. I know the conditions of the schools. I know the problems they’re going through.”  

He also believes he is someone the education bureaucracy can work with. “Number one: I’m approachable. I don’t avoid people. I’m the type [of person who], if I see someone on the side of the road, I’ll come over. It only takes a minute. ‘Hey bro, are you okay?’”

As a retired soldier, Joe S. admits he was not looking for a career. “I basically ran to get a job done, and after that’s done—I may be one term or two terms, but of my choosing. I just wanna get the work done, and then hopefully I can sit back and say the education system is in place. The laws are in place. Now we just gotta let it work. If we write the laws decently, and it’s easy for the folks to follow, it’ll just fix itself.”

He also has a theory for the surprisingly high turnover in incumbents. “Maybe the people just wanted new faces, and new ideas.  The big message was it’s not working. We’re just hearing excuses. People (the candidates) would talk about what they did two, four years ago. People want to hear about what you did today,” Joe S. concluded.

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