My mother taught me that a person’s character is determined by the disciplines and values instilled at a very tender age. When I was 12-years-old, I performed in hotels and military camps as a hula dancer and earned $3 a night. I gave that money to my mom to buy daily bread, eggs and milk for our family of five children. My mom also worked – many times in the evenings – and taught me to cook our meals by giving me instructions on the telephone for different dishes. I am grateful for those teachings as I have become quite a chef. She encouraged us to excel in our talents – allowing me to enter various musical or hula competitions. I am grateful for that support for it taught me that as an entertainer I am able to earn a living using my talents and to be self-reliant. I established a business in entertainment that for 45 years has employed many musicians as well as hula dancers and practitioners talented in the making of traditional arts.
My mom also pushed me to be educated. I did by attending a business college and securing a job with the State of Hawai‘i. I was so fortunate to be offered a position in Governor John A. Burns’ office when I was working at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. How exciting it was to learn how politics really works; and I learned from the master himself, Governor Burns. The State Capitol was the ‘Iolani Palace with the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s offices on the second floor and the Legislature on the main floor. The Speaker of the House was Elmer Cravalho from Maui – a truly brilliant man.
In 1971, after moving to Maui, I was employed by Maui Land & Pineapple as its properties administrator. I remember alerting many Hawaiian property owners of a quiet title movement in West Maui to be sure they had their important land documents in order to protect the ownership of their lands. Also rewarding was my participation in building affordable and workforce housing for Maui Pineapple employees as well as West Maui residents. A three-bedroom home in that project was $36,000 then. How times have changed.
Elmer Cravalho decided to return to Maui and become our mayor. He offered me a position as the county’s Land Use & Codes Administrator responsible for enforcing all land use ordinances for land development – subdivision, building, electrical, plumbing, grading, etc. I felt it critical to treat all applicants fairly and not because I knew one better than the other and to assure that quality developments were built.
After having my three children, I became a single mom. I did what I had to do to survive and provide for my children. I worked as an administrator in the day and performed at our hotels in the evenings. On the weekends I took menial jobs to earn extra money to sustain my family by cleaning the offices I occupied in the daytime and mowing elderly people’s yards. One of the most important attributes taught me by my mom was work ethic. I have passed this on to my three children; and today, am proud that they are all successful with the same work ethic I taught them. I serve the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in the same manner. Everything I ever wanted, I achieved before I became a trustee. My purpose at OHA is to listen to the voices of our people and make decisions accordingly.
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and uprightness.