Maui County’s first lady, Ann Arakawa, the wife

While Alan Arakawa is mayor of Maui County and oversees more than 2,000 employees, things are different at home. There, he stands on equal footing with his wife, Ann.

In fact, after his day is over as Maui’s highest elected official, Mayor Arakawa still has many jobs to do when he’s home – and they’re not political.

He helps with cooking preparation and cleanup, while Mrs. Arakawa does the cooking. She washes the clothes, while he folds them. He also takes out the trash and cares for his fish and turtle ponds outside their Kahului house. And both the mayor and his wife take care of the yard.

“Marriage is a partnership, and we have always tried to do things together, including the chores,” Mrs. Arakawa said.

The mother of two adult daughters, reflected on her life, parenting, as well as being married to the mayor in a sit-down interview with The Maui News several days before Mother’s Day.

The 62-year-old retired University of Hawaii Maui College math instructor said she has had more positive than negative experiences from being Maui County’s first lady.

“The perks are being able to meet many new and interesting people from all walks of life and to learn about a lot of new initiatives happening around the world. The only downfall I can see is trying to keep up with a hectic schedule, but my husband loves his job and I support him completely,” she said.

Mrs. Arakawa can often be seen at the mayor’s side with a smile at community and political events.

“He has such a busy life as mayor, that he is not home much,” she said. “So (accompanying him at public events) is one way of us spending some time together. I also enjoy meeting new people and connecting with old friends who I have not seen for a long time. We always seem to run into someone we know, and it is great to catch up on our lives.”

While the mayor’s high public profile has impacted their personal lives on many levels, Mrs. Arakawa doesn’t complain about it. In fact, she laughed while describing how a simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a two-hour event.

“When we go grocery shopping, it’s funny,” she said.

The mayor will get the shopping cart and quickly someone will stop to talk to him, she said. Not wanting to interrupt, Mrs. Arakawa leaves to shop. She’ll come back to the mayor and the wagon. Sometimes he’s still talking to the same person. Sometimes it’s a new person.

“Sometimes he’s done before I’m done shopping,” Mrs. Arakawa said.

But at other times, Mrs. Arakawa has to hunt for the mayor, especially in large stores like Costco.

She often asks herself: “Where did he go? He was just here . . .

“It’s a long process,” she said laughing.

Mrs. Arakawa met her husband at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1969. They had a speech class together in their freshman year. They developed a relationship, and they were married six years later.

Mrs. Arakawa graduated from Baldwin High School while Mayor Arakawa graduated from Maui High School. Even though they were from the same island, their paths didn’t cross until they met while attending college on Oahu.

Mrs. Arakawa has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a master’s degree in math education from UH.

After returning to Maui, the couple lived in Kula, where the mayor grew up. Later, they moved to Kahului and eventually moved in with Mrs. Arakawa’s father after his wife died.

While Mrs. Arakawa advanced her career as a math instructor, the mayor worked his way up to become a supervisor of one of Maui County’s wastewater reclamation facilities, then went on to be elected to the Maui County Council and has been elected twice as mayor.

Mrs. Arakawa said she keeps her distance from her husband’s work with Maui County, but there’s one thing she takes issue with him on – his fish and turtle ponds at home.

“He has threatened to surround the house with fishponds,” she said, laughing.

While Mrs. Arakawa said the turtle and fishponds are her husband’s hobby, she has to take care of the turtles and guppies, which multiply rapidly. She often has to feed them because they need to be fed before dark.

When asked if the mayor would ever get his wish of having a fishpond surround their house, like a moat, Mrs. Arakawa replied: “If the wife has anything to say about it, it won’t happen.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at