View more photos for the Speaker Joe T. San Agustin entry here.

Public servant for more than six decades

Speaker Joe Taitano San Agustin (1930 – 2021) was the epitome of a public servant and a leader in Guam for more than six decades. He was born to Candido Sanchez and Maria Taitano San Agustin of Hagåtña. San Agustin married Carmen Shimizu San Agustin. They had four children, Ann, Mary, Joe, and John.

He lived a life dedicated to faith, government, and service to the people of Guam.

San Agustin had a part time job during high school, just after World War II, doing research in the Land and Claims department of the Naval Government of Guam at the time when the Navy was confiscating much land on Guam for military bases. Later in his career, San Agustin headed up the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) on Guam which led to Guam getting Tiyan and other lands back into local hands.

San Agustin left Guam to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees at George Washington University, Washington DC. Upon returning to the island after receiving his undergraduate degree, San Agustin first worked for the Navy and then as the first director of Administration in the newly formed Government of Guam, under governors Manuel FL Guerrero and Carlos Camacho

Early government service

After completing his undergraduate degree, he returned to Guam from George Washington University in DC in 1955 and became a federal employee at the Budget Office of the Naval Supply Depot. In 1961, San Agustin started as a Method’s Examiner in the office of Governor Manuel F. Leon Guerrero and advanced to Chief of the Budget and Management Office Research. 

San Agustin served in various capacities in the government of Guam and was instrumental in the transition of Guam’s government and agencies from appointed governors to Guam’s first elected governor. In 1962, he led 20 government employees in donating to establish the Government of Guam Federal Credit Union. He later served on the Board of Directors for the Bank of Guam.

Senator, Speaker, Chairman of the Democratic Party

San Agustin was first elected senator in 1977, and served from the 14th to the 23rd Guam Legislatures. He was speaker of the 20th to the 22nd Guam Legislatures. San Agustin was also chairman of the Democratic Party of Guam from 1997 until 2001.

In the Guam Legislature, he focused on protecting public finances and economic development. San Agustin was a staunch defender of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund and served as the chairman of its elected board.

He served on several boards:

  • Bank of Guam Board of Directors, 1972 to 2017
  • Organizer and First President, GovGuam Federal Credit Union now known as Coast 360
  • Chairman, Board of Directors, Guam Greyhound, Inc.
  • Chairman, Board of Directors, Guam Aqua Research, Inc.

He was also an active volunteer with the Catholic Archdiocese of Guam, serving with Archbishop Felixberto Flores as well as with Santa Barbara Catholic Church.  In 2009 he was appointed and proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to be a knight of the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester.

After retiring as a senator, San Agustin taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Guam for the School of Business and Public Administration up to 2019.  He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund for more than two decades.

“Speaker Joe T. San Agustin was a giant in politics. He helped shape and reform our public institutions and build Guam’s economic engines to generate wealth and prosperity for the island. He was well regarded by leaders of all persuasions and will be remembered as one of the most effective policymakers to have ever served our island,”

Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio

“Joe T. San Agustin was instrumental in the establishment of many agencies, services and programs of the government of Guam and fought for retirement security for employees after their long years of sacrifice and service to the government of Guam.”

Therese Terlaje, Speaker of the 36th Guam Legislature

Joe T. San Agustin, in his own words, on the GovGuam Credit Union

“I founded the GovGuam credit union. I was working at the Navy with Pete Perez and we started the Government of Guam Employees Credit Union with Gov. Guerrero and Rudy Sablan and about 20 people. It was for people to save money. There was only one bank, Bank of America, and it was hard to get loans.

“We allowed people to sign up for payroll deduction. You can borrow money and it was really helpful to people. At the time it was like $10 (per paycheck). The bank (Bank of America) was really upset. Gov Flores came by and said if he were the governor at the time it was created he would never have allowed it because it was competing with the banks. We moved from Hagåtña to Agana Heights to Tamuning and that was when the GovGuam credit union could only service GovGuam employees.

“But we expanded to allow others. It became the GovGuam community bank. Look at it now. It’s a multi-million dollar institution!”

Speaker Joe T. San Agustin

About Coast 360

“Coast 360 started on 24 September 1962 as Government of Guam Employees Federal Credit Union by a group of 20 government employees. At that time, their employer was their common bond (GovGuam).

“In 2008, the credit union was granted a charter that opened membership to everyone who lives or works on the island. This new charter required a new name to better reflect the credit union’s vision for the future – a vision to remain strong for our members, their children, grandchildren and communities we serve – so we became Coast 360 Federal Credit Union.

“We’ve come a long way and have seen great change since that day in September of 1962. With over 50,000 members today, our commitment remains the same. No outside interests – just regular people who can rely on each other for the help they need.”

Speaker Joe T. San Agustin

By Shannon J. Murphy

For further reading

Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 1995.

Sanchez, Pedro C. Guahan Guam: The History of Our Island. Hagåtña: Sanchez Publishing House, 1987.