September 19, 2023

Mayor Richard Bissen announces creation of a Lahaina Advisory Team, community informational meetings

In a key step toward recovery, Mayor Richard Bissen has formed a 5-member Lāhainā Advisory Team comprised of Lāhainā residents. The Advisory Team will serve as a critical resource and will meet weekly with Mayor Bissen to ensure the needs and desires of the community are part of discussions and decisions the County is involved in.

“As parents, business owners, compassionate community leaders and residents who have long-standing and generational ties to Lāhainā, each member offers a perspective that will help guide key discussions as we purposefully and mindfully go forward,” Mayor Bissen said. “I’m deeply grateful for their willingness to give their time and their collective voice to help navigate these unprecedented times that truly must involve our community.”

Members of the Lāhainā Advisory Team are:

Archie Kalepa – 9th generation resident of Lāhainā; inducted in 2012 to the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation’s Hawai`i Waterman Hall of Fame; crew member of Hokule`a and Hawai`iloa voyaging canoes; leader of Maui Ocean Rescue and Safety; renowned big wave surfer.

Kaliko Storer –Area training and cultural advisor for Hyatt Resorts; Pu`u Kukui Watershed operations supervisor; Kula Kaiapuni parent.

Kim Ball – Originally from Hawai`i Island,where he was born and raised, founder and president of Hi-Tech Maui, Inc.; Lahainaluna High School wrestling coach since 1980.

Laurie DeGama – Owner of Lahaina business No Ka Oi Deli; president of Lahainaluna PTSA; for two generations,her family owned and operated Hop Wo store and bakery in Lāhainā.

Rick Nava – U.S. Army veteran; president and owner of Lāhainā-based MSI Maui; former board member and officer of West Maui Taxpayers Association and the Maui Chamber of Commerce; member of Rotary Club of Lāhainā.

Four of the Advisory Team members - Kalepa, Storer, DeGama and Nava - are alumni of Lahainaluna High School. Three members - Ball, DeGama and Nava - lost their homes in the August 8th fire.

Mayor Bissen also announced today two community informational meetings for those impacted by the wildfire disaster. Information on housing plans, air quality status, support programs, and the establishment of a County of Maui Office of Recovery will be shared. The community informational meetings are scheduled for:

Friday, September 22
5:00 p.m. - LāhaināCivic Center

Sunday, September 24
3:00 p.m. - Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului

To ensure a clear focus on meeting the needs of the community and strong coordination of combined efforts involving multiple county departments, state and federal agencies, and non-government organizations, the County of Maui will be establishing an Office of Recovery.

Mayor Bissen selected Josiah Nishita to lead the new department. Nishita has been with the County for eleven years in leadership positions. He is currently Deputy Director in the Department of Management, which oversees the Countyʻs 17 departments. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Fox University and earned a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Hawai`i Shidler College of Business. “Josiah’s experience, leadership skills and genuine care for our community will serve us well as the new Office of Recovery begins to take shape. We are still in the early stage of its formation and once operational, community engagement will be a necessary part of its success. It’s important that our efforts continue to be community led, government supported,” said Mayor Bissen.

The Office of Recovery willaddress intermediate and long-term disaster recovery needs and be the center of coordination for integrated outcomes in community planning; housing; infrastructure; natural, historical and cultural resources; economic resiliency; and health and social service systems.

“The way forward is together,” said Mayor Bissen. “We are makingour way through the profoundly heartbreaking period of searching for unaccounted-for family members, an effort we continue to do tirelessly. Next week, residents will begin to re-enter restricted zones as the areas complete inspections for their safe access. This week’s community informational meetings will be the start of many other opportunities for the County to include the community in its work.

“With the valuable perspectives of the advisory team and the establishment of a County Office of Recovery, we are entering into an extensive effort that provides a foundation to move forward on with the welfare and well-being of the community at the forefront of our efforts. We will do everything in our power to bring stability and support to all of our Maui ʻohana who are experiencing unimaginable hardship.”

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