Maui Election

Mayor-elect Bissen announces additional appointments to his cabinet

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Mayor-elect Richard Bissen has announced additional appointments to his cabinet, including:

  • Leo Caires as Chief of Staff
  • Mahina Martin as Chief of Communications and Public Affairs
  • Gerry Dameron as Chief Innovation Officer
Leo Caires as Chief of Staff (left); Mahina Martin as Chief of Communications and Public Affairs (middle); and Gerry Dameron as Chief Innovation Officer (right).

Leo Caires, in his role as Chief of Staff, will oversee executive support staff and divisions within the Office of the Mayor.

He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Chadron State College and a doctorate in education, leadership and innovation from St. Thomas University where his doctorate dissertation was on the financial literacy of Native Hawaiians.

A former Division 1a linebacker football player and rodeo cowboy who garnered state championship wins and national qualifier in steer wrestling and bull riding while a student at Maui High School, he is an accomplished commercial finance professional and business owner who has federal government professional experience.

Since 2020, together with his family, Caires continues to operate the Kaupakalua Wine and Liquor Company that was first incorporated in 1905.

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Mahina Martin will lead the Office of Communications and Public Affairs providing support with media relations, public information, and community engagement.

As a director of government and community affairs for Hawaiian Electric she led the utility’s community outreach, corporate giving, and engagement strategy for Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi for over nine years and will bring more than 30 years of public affairs experience to her role in the administration.

She previously served as communications director during the Tavares administration, is a former Department of Hawaiian Home Lands commissioner, and will be an incoming 2023 USA Board member of the International Association of Public Participation, an international organization advancing the practice of public participation with chapters in 26 countries.

As Chief Innovation Officer, Gerry Dameron will help to address Mayor-elect Bissen’s priorities of sustainability, affordable housing, infrastructure improvement, environmental protection, job creation and green economic development.

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With more than 25 years of success in organizational leadership, training and technological innovation in the business and the municipal sectors, his role will focus on bringing together different departments and County teams to utilize proven leading-edge technologies, dynamic systems, and best practices.

For the past 11 years he has served as the executive director of Go Green Culture Foundation, a nonprofit charitable foundation.


Mayor-elect Bissen said he’s excited about the selections of experienced and accomplished individuals.

“It’s important that we find ways to combine and leverage the positive strengths of government and community to have the generational impact I’m committed to bringing to Maui County and their roles will underscore that effort.”

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While the previously announced appointment of Kekuhaupio “Keku” Akana as Managing Director will require council approval, these three positions on Bissen’s staff do not have that requirement.

Mayor-elect Bissen said he looks forward to announcing more members of his team in the weeks to come with additional appointments of department directors and their deputies.

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