An Uncommon Leader


Laha ʻole (vs. Rare, choice, unique; not common.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

The news in late May that former OHA Board of Trustees (BOT) Chair Colette Machado had passed away shocked the community.

Chair Machado was a fierce warrior and proud of her grassroots origins. Her entire adult life was dedicated to serving the people of Molokaʻi and the larger lāhui; she advocated tirelessly to protect our ʻāina, our people, and nohona Hawaiʻi (our way of life).

Her service to the lāhui began in the 1970s. In the five decades that followed she helped to found a number of grassroots organizations and also held leadership roles with organizations such as the Molokaʻi Land Trust, the Molokaʻi Island Burial Council, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the State Land Use Commission, the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission and, of course, with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs representing the islands of Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi for 24 years.

She was a force to be reckoned with, and her sheer presence could be intimidating. She lived her truth and her politics. She was passionate and courageous and smart – a political triple threat. She was an uncommon leader.

I recall preparing for the 2020 legislative session. It was obvious as we met with legislators that she commanded their respect. And it wasn’t just the “positional respect” afforded to her as the chair of OHA’s BOT. Her influence with lawmakers came from their recognition that she had the respect and aloha of most of her community – not because of her title, but because of her heart.

On a trip we took together to Washington, D.C., her husband, Uncle Myron Akutagawa, made plans to travel with us. Uncle Myron was never far away; he and Chair Machado were devoted to one another. It was February and during the course of our trip I learned that they were celebrating their wedding anniversary that month and that, randomly, they both loved snacking on Pringles.

At our next meeting (after returning home), I presented her with a little goodie basket as an anniversary gift that included a few containers of Pringles. I was taken aback by how touched she was by my small gesture.

Chair Machado often surprised me. I recall whenever she met with the senate president that before meeting, they would discreetly step to the side and quietly pule. And despite her extensive experience as a public speaker, public speaking actually made her nervous.

It is serendipitous that plans were already in place to focus the July issue of Ka Wai Ola on Chair Machado’s home island, as OHA’s BOT meetings on July 18 and 19 will be held on Molokaʻi. Indeed, our cover story celebrates the restoration of Kawela Stream and the role that Molokaʻi’s next generation of leaders played in that victory.

We also meet a few homegrown Molokaʻi entrepreneurs and three sisters who are working to address substance abuse issues on their island. And Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana leader and UH Mānoa Professor Dr. Davianna McGregor, Chair Machado’s a longtime friend, shares a hoʻomanaʻo.

He ʻaloʻalo kuāua no kuahiwi* a he alakaʻi laha ʻole ʻo ia. Ke aloha nui a Ke Akua pū.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer

*ʻŌlelo Noʻeau 541: “One who faced the mountain showers.” A brave person.