Jim Reeves sings a song I first heard forty years ago. One of the lines from the song goes, “There comes a time when we must say ‘goodbye…’” For me that time has come.
I came quietly to OHA in 2007 (thirteen years and seven months ago). And, I want to leave quietly. In leaving, I don’t want to boast about my achievements. Why? That would be disingenuous. There are many who helped over the years as I tried my best to serve you and serve you well. I just want to mahalo those who lifted me up when I was stumbling and gave me the strength, courage and hope to carry on.
Mahalo to Kathy, my wife, the girl with yellow hair and cobalt blue eyes, who I met at UH Mānoa in October 1969, who, with our sons, have stood with me through ‘thick and thin’ and the ‘fog of war’ during campaign season. She didn’t run home to San Francisco when I stood with Sonny Kaniho in the mid 70s after we were evicted from our home.
OHA Trustees Boyd Mossman and Oswald Stender who, with coaxing from Dr. Michael Chun and Kahu Billy Mitchell, forwarded my name to the OHA Board for consideration to fill a vacancy after the untimely passing of Trustee Linda Dela Cruz (Hawaiʻi’s songbird). I admit I was initially skeptical, but now upon reflection, I thank them heartfully for this ‘golden’ opportunity to serve. It was a ‘chance in a lifetime’ to serve you. I want to acknowledge the many friends who sent me short inspirational notes by text, email, cards and voice messages.
I want to mahalo our OHA staff at Nā Lama Kukui. They are a competent and capable staff, committed to OHA’s Mission and to you, our beneficiaries. I’m grateful to have served with three Administrators, Clyde Nāmuʻo, Dr. Kamanaʻopono Crabbe and now, Dr. Sylvia Maeda Hussey, a Kohala girl of whom I’m very, very proud. Mahalo to our Moku o Keawe staff, past and present. East Hawaiʻi: Lukela Ruddle, Gladys Brigham, Kamaile Puluʻole-Mitchell, Kalena Blakemore, Pua Ishibashi, Kamuela Bannister, Charene Crusat and Ilihia Gionson. West Hawaiʻi: Shane Palacat-Nelson, Dawn Tanimoto and Aunty Ruby McDonald.
I want to remember also all the Hawaiian Homestead associations around our Mokupuni; Keaukaha, Panaʻewa, Kaūmana, Makuʻu, Kaniohale, Waimea, Lālāmilo and Kailapa. Mahalo to our NGO’s, the following in particular – The Kohala Center, Habitat for Humanity-West Hawaiʻi, Queen’s Health Systems-Queen’s North Hawaiʻi Community Hospital – and a dear friend, Dr. Earl Bakken.
Mahalo to the Hawaiʻi Island Legislative Caucus. I had the great honor of being a part of this caucus (composed of all our Hawaiʻi Island State Senators and House members) for all these years. There were moments I knew that it was just not possible to get help from OHA for our island. The Caucus was our safety net. I believe I am the only OHA Trustee to enjoy such a privilege. Through that connection, we also developed relationships with Hawaiʻi County officials, both elected and appointed, which also helped our beneficiaries.
Lastly, my staff, to whom I will forever be grateful. They didn’t work for me. They worked with me. We were a Team. We worked together to Hoʻoulu Lāhui. When I served as Chair of the Board of Trustees, Harold Nedd was the Chief of Staff and Capsun Poe was our Board Secretary. Mahalo to Harold for assisting me and our Trustees in navigating our policy issues both internally and externally in order to move OHA forward. Mahalo to Capsun for making sure things were done correctly and by the book. I valued their input as it was always thoughtful and mindful of the work OHA was doing, and needed to do, to benefit our beneficiaries. My Aides. Kama Hopkins. Kama is one smart, good hearted, courageous, hard working, diligent, loyal dude. I could go on and on about Kama and his virtues. He’s my ‘pit bull’ when I need one. Been with me since Day One. He tells me when I’m being hūpō and ‘barking at the moon.’ When I need to ‘shape up’ or ‘get a grip’ there’s Kauikeaolani Wailehua. She handles our administrative matters and kept us ‘inside the box.’ Then…there was T, Tiona Wailehua, Kaui’s mom. Tiona served as our gate and bookkeeper for almost nine years. T now ‘soars with the angels’ but her spirit lives on inside us.
Mahalo everyone for making my time at OHA purposeful, fun and meaningful. We truly do Aloha kekahi i kekahi. And in leaving, I want to wish my successor ‘fair winds and calm seas.’ Na ke Akua kākou e alakaʻi mai, kīai mai ā mālama mai i kēia lā ā mau loa aku. May God guide, protect and care for all of us always. Aloha nō…