I came to this beautiful island when I was nineteen and, except for an extended year on the mainland when my mother was dying of cancer, have been a Mauian my entire adult life. I met my husband here and both our children were born and raised in Kihei/Kula. Our kids graduated from Maui High School and have since received their Masters Degrees from UH Manoa. Many people still remember the engine repair and maintenance business that my husband and I ran for over 25 years, King Diesel, which became the Maui County Cummins Engine dealership.
My involvement in our community started when my daughter Jenna was a baby and we joined the Kihei Neighborhood Playgroup (a county program), which I eventually took over as director. I continued contributing throughout my motherhood, getting more involved as I saw the need. In the 80s I worked with developers to get donations and do groundwork for a separate area with playground equipment for the kindergarten classes at Kihei school – the first public playground equipment on the island! From there I spearheaded playground equipment installations in Kalama and Kula Parks, both endeavors involving volunteer fundraisers and public/private partnerships with the County.
As my children grew and I became more immersed in the needs of Maui’s older keiki, I started a Girl Scout Troop at Kula School to help empower our young women and became active in School/Community-Based Governance, eventually running for the Maui seat on the State Board of Education. Representing Maui’s schools for 4 years (1994-98) was both grueling and rewarding as I learned how to work with colleagues of differing opinions and interests, and was able to develop the research and support that would effect change.
While I served in that volunteer position, my husband started a new business, Pacific Biodiesel, which began as a recycling project to divert used cooking oil from Maui’s landfills and turn it into a clean, renewable displacement for petroleum diesel. I joined the company full time in the early 2000s and we began to focus our collective efforts on environmental issues. The focus was on island sustainability and self-sufficiency – about surviving and thriving rather than just recycling.
With the proposal by outside interests to import palm oil from deforested land in Indonesia to make biodiesel in Maui, I realized that not all biodiesel is created equally. That led to working with biodiesel advocates Willie and Annie Nelson, Woody and Laura Harrelson, and Daryl Hannah to create the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance which is now a national non-profit that supports sustainably produced biodiesel. This organization developed a Sustainability Certification Program that was recently piloted by Pacific Biodiesel’s own Big Island Biodiesel.
My involvement in local, state and national issues eventually brought me home to focus on Maui County’s needs. Our local values are embedded in our non-profit organizations, our community plans, our agricultural lands and our ocean reefs which sorely need protecting. Through these shared values we can find a way to encourage and incorporate smart growth and not have to choose between Pono and Prosperity. My success as a community collaborator has always been focused on bringing folks together to recognize shared values and work toward common goals. Pono Prosperity is more than just a campaign slogan – it is the guideline for Pacific Biodiesel’s success. I believe this is why so many friends and supporters have urged me to run for the South Maui Council seat.
Having recently been blessed with our first granddaughter, the decision to run was both easy and hard. Hard because I would really like to spend more time on the Big Island with little Viviana, and easy because it is more important than ever to lay the groundwork for better communities. Maui has embraced me, and now I want to face yet another challenge to serve and malama Maui.
Image Credit: Kelly King Kelly4Kihei