Leon Salacup Bolosan

Leon Salacup Bolosan

Governor’s Man on Maui.

Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor

When Leon Salacup Bolosan arrived on Maui as a 16-year-old in September 1965, little did he know that someday, somehow, he would be Governor Josh Green’s main man on Maui. After all, that’s how American dreams are. The Bacarra native, who was born in 1948, son of Santiago Madariaga Bolosan and Feliciana Francisco Salacup, came to Maui on a student visa and initially studied at Mauna‘olu College in Pā‘ia. Later, he received an Associate Degree from Maui Community College and began a career in construction.

Leon Bolosan—as the Governor’s representative on Maui—stands in the office.
Photo: Alfredo G. Evangelista

On December 5, 2022, Bolosan officially became the Governor’s Maui representative. “This position requires great demands, time and energy,” says Bolosan. He explains each day is different. “My role is to deal with the public.” When asked what type of things come to his attention, Bolosan laughingly says “Oh brother!” and shares he deals with mostly complaints, and requests for directions and services. In the last couple of months, Bolosan reveals, the most frequent complaints related to the new Kīhei school, the luxury yacht grounding, and the hospital strike. “Some people who get evicted, they even come over here.” Bolosan’s immediate supervisor is Fele Tau, who gives him guidance. If needed, Bolosan can check with Brooke Wilson, Green’s chief of staff. “I have a good relationship with all these people,” he emphasizes. For every situation, “I weigh the problem to determine how to respond to the complaint and whether I need to seek guidance.”

When the Governor isn’t on Maui, Bolosan steps in. The first ceremony he attended on behalf of Governor Green was the Maui Filipino Community Council Rizal Day celebration in late December 2022. “It was challenging to deliver my first speech.” Bolosan joked how Lydia Coloma, Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran’s mom, who gave an acceptance speech on behalf of the Senator who was attending a funeral on O‘ahu, was a better speaker than Bolosan. “I’m a little rusty in giving speeches.”

Leon Bolosan’s official press photograph.
Photo: State of Hawai‘i

Bolosan also attends groundbreaking ceremonies, funerals, and celebrations of all kinds. On a monthly basis, he meets with the Department of Land and Natural Resources as well as the Department of Transportation. He also meets with the Department of Education as needed.

Bolosan first met Green when he became Lt. Governor. “I am honored to be the Govenor’s representative on Maui,” he proclaims. “I know the Governor trusts me. I would not do anything to breach that trust.”

After Bolosan graduated from the Maui Community College, he worked with F.M. Bulusan Contracting. (Yes, a relative with a different spelling of the last name; two of his grandfather’s brothers went to Isabela and somehow their name was changed from Bolosan to Bulusan.) Later, he worked with Rex Construction Company before creating his own general contracting company, Seven Brothers Contractors. Bolosan was also an exclusive retailer for Bose and owned Maui Entertainment Center in Kīhei.

Genaro Bolosan.
Photo courtesy Bolosan ‘Ohana

Bolosan’s paternal grandfather, Genaro Bolosan, arrived on Maui as a Sakada in 1925 at the age of twenty-five and worked at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company until he retired in the 1960s. “I dedicate my success to my grandparents,” Bolosan says. Genaro and his wife Sinforosa Madariaga Bolosan had only one child, Santiago. Santiago became a Sergeant in the Philippine Constabulary and was primarily assigned to the Mindanao region where he lost his right arm in battle.

Santiago, who later changed his name to Magdaleno, and Feliciana had ten children: Leon, Magdaleno Jr., Romeo, Daniel, Ligaya, twins Oscar and Linda, twins Eugene and Manuel, and Emily. All live on Maui; Magdaleno Jr. and Daniel are now deceased.

Bolosan is married to Erlinda Sajor Bolosan whose roots are from Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. They met at Maui Community College. Erlinda was a former school teacher in Manila and eventually began substitute teaching and teaching full-time, with her last assignment at Waihe‘e School. Erlinda retired right before the pandemic. They have three children: Lionel (who works at Home Depot), Leah (who works at Mahi Pono) and Leila (who works at Grand Wailea Napua).

Leah Belmonte (from left), Gov. Josh Green and Leon Bolosan.
Photo courtesy Bolosan ‘Ohana

Those who follow Filipino beauty pageants will recognize Leah Bolosan as the 1993 Miss Hawai‘i Filipina. Those who follow government and politics will recognize Leah, now Leah Belmonte, as former Governor David Ige’s Maui representative, serving seven years before transitioning to Mahi Pono. In 2014, Leah became the first Filipino on Maui to be named as the Governor’s Representative—and left her position at Grand Wailea to do so.

“I’m proud of what Leah accomplished,” beams Bolosan. His job is made a little easier because he meets a lot of folks who knew and liked Leah. Bolosan’s office consists only of himself and one staff member, Michele Ankele-Yamashita who started during Governor Neil Abercrombie’s term. Ankele-Yamashita is the most experienced staff of the neighbor island representatives. “When Josh became Gov., there was a lot of case work,” Bolosan admits. “So all case work initially came through Maui for the first month until everyone was in place.”

Leon Bolosan campaigns with Josh Green.
Photo courtesy Bolosan ‘Ohana

The Governor’s Representative is more often a political appointment. “I turned him down many times,” Bolosan declares. But Green was insistent until he got his man. “Later on I realized I wanted to help people,” reveals Bolosan. “That’s why I’m still poor. I’m a community-minded person.”

Bolosan, a declared member of the Democratic party, has been involved as a major political strategist since 2002. At that time, he became involved as a campaign coordinator in Ed Case’s campaign for Congress, with Don Guzman as campaign chair, along with Pat Wong. “I put up over 300 signs for Ed that year,” Bolosan claims. “I put them up and removed them too.”

In 2014, Bolosan was the Maui campaign coordinator for the gubernatorial campaign team of Ige/Tsutsui. In 2018, Bolosan was the Maui campaign coordinator for the gubernatorial campaign team of Ige/Green. In 2022, Bolosan was the Maui campaign coordinator of Josh Green for Governor.

Bolosan learned his community organizing skills as the president of the Maui Fil-Am Jaycees, serving as President from 1973–1976 and as president of the United Bacarreneos of Maui, serving in the 1980s. “That was the first time that I could get Judge Baxa, attorney Ramil and Herman Andaya together,” Bolosan recalls. “Manong Fred Dagdag would tell me there were a lot of Bacarreneos on Maui—more than any other town—but why didn’t we have a presence at the Barrio Fiesta. So when I was president, that was the first time we entered and we won.” Bolosan proudly notes he still has the trophy for the Bacarreneos winning first place in the booth contest during the annual Barrio Fiesta.

United Barreneos of Maui’s bahay kubo at Maui’s annual Barrio Fiesta.
Photo courtesy Maui Filipino Community Council

More recently, Bolosan served on a number of important commissions. He was a member of the Liquor Commission from April 2017 through March 2022, serving as Chair from 2021–2022. He later served from April 2022 to March 2023 on the Board of Variances and Appeals.

Bolosan explains requests to the Governor’s office must be made on-line and highly recommends the request be submitted at least four to six weeks in advance. Requests include the Governor’s attendance at an event, a message from the Governor, or a certificate from the Governor; all of which are highly valued in the Filipino community. After the request is made, Bolosan can monitor it. But Bolosan warns “The Governor’s schedule changes every day.”

Bolosan and Ankele Yamashita
Photo: Alfredo G. Evangelista

Bolosan has fond memories of his grandfather Genaro. “He loved to make throw nets and would catch mullet and other fishes. He also loved to plant vegetables. When he’s not sewing nets, he’s with his tarong, string beans, paria and other vegetables. He told me to go to school. He was the guy who petitioned me so I could go to Mauna‘olu College. I owe my grandparents my success.”

Bolosan sits in the conference room.
Photo: Alfredo G. Evangelista

Bolosan shared three of his mantras: “Be soft onto people. Never take a person’s dignity. Avoid the blame game.” He recognizes that because he works for the government, “I’m a public servant” and notes “Maui has been very nice to me and my family. My life has lots of ups and downs. There’s times I did hit rock bottom but I still consider my Maui is heaven on Earth.”
Indeed, Maui nō ka ‘oi!

Assistant Editor Alfredo Evangelista came home to Maui nō ka ‘oi in 2010 (after attending school on the mainland and working on O‘ahu for twenty-seven years). He is pictured below with fellow Maui High School alum Brian Moto, Leon Bolosan, and World Class Travelers Bill and Amy Ruidas.