WAILUKU - Maui County Council members gave a standing ovation to Mayor Charmaine Tavares on Friday, thanking the mayor for her service and encouraging her to open the bowling center she's long talked about.
Tavares' four-year term ends Jan. 2, when Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa will return to office after denying Tavares a second term in the Nov. 2 general election.
The Council Chambers was filled Friday with Tavares' staff and well-wishers who wiped away tears as council members took turns praising the mayor for her public service, including 10 years as a council member. In total, Tavares said she had given 41 years to public service.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares and Maui Economic Development Board President and Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Skog greet supporters after being honored by members of the Maui County Council on Friday morning.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Council Member Mike Molina, who endorsed Arakawa in this year's election, said he hoped Tavares would pursue a dream she has spoken about before - opening a bowling center. "Much aloha to you, Charmaine," he said.
Tavares said she could not have served without the support of her father, the late Mayor Hannibal Tavares, her mother, Harriet; her sister, Sharon Klaschka; and her brother, Gary.
Never really interested in public office, Tavares said she became a candidate at the urging of family and friends. After meeting thousands of people and putting thousands of hours into service, she said she's glad she did.
"I'm actually truly, truly blessed," she said.
Also getting a standing ovation was Tavares' mother, whose daughter called her forward for recognition.
"This is the foundation of the family," Tavares said looking adoringly toward her mother. "She has kept everyone together. I wish everyone would have a mother like mine."
In the council resolution, Tavares was recognized for a number of initiatives including:
* Adding 18 more buses and preparing a transportation expansion plan that is now two years ahead of schedule. Council Member Wayne Nishiki took note of Tavares' leadership in alternative transportation, saying he rode the bus himself, alluding to the year when he temporarily lost his license as part of a drunken driving conviction. Tavares urged people to use the bus and said double-decker buses will be out shortly in South Maui. "It's is a wonderful experience to ride the bus," she said.
* Creating the Play and Learn Sessions, also known as the PALS program, while director of the Department of Parks and Recreation in 1990. The mayor called PALS her "greatest, proudest" accomplishment, in part because it provided families the support they needed to keep their children safe and busy during summers and other breaks from school.
* Establishing the Mayor's Energy Alliance, consisting of five working groups, which was heralded by the Federal National Energy Lab as one of the nation's most comprehensive and aggressive county energy plans, exceeding state energy goals.
* Working diligently as a member of the Hawaii Council of Mayors to successfully lobby the state Legislature for Maui's County's share of the transient accommodations tax, also known as the hotel room tax, enabling the county to retain $18 million in fiscal year 2011.
"She tried her best. She gave it her all," Council Member Gladys Baisa said of Tavares.
Council Chairman Danny Mateo said he was going to miss a good friend in Tavares. "Our mayor has been busy. Our mayor has been productive," Mateo said, pointing out her support of his home island of Molokai, where mass layoffs at Molokai Ranch occurred and a 1,000-plus-acre brush fire raged on the island during Tavares' term as mayor.
Through it all, Nishiki said, Tavares was personable and approachable.
"That's what you are - warm, kind and gentle and always humility, always smiling," he said.
Tavares said she appreciated the blessings she has received.
"I've had a great life, a wonderful one," she said.
A resolution of appreciation was also presented to Council Member Jo Anne Johnson, who attended her last meeting after five consecutive two-year terms. Johnson will leave the island for the holiday; when she returns, she hopes to continue in public service, though not through public office.
She will be followed in the council's West Maui residency seat by Elle Cochran. Johnson said she leaves the seat in "capable hands."
Jeanne Unemori Skog, of the Maui Economic Development Board, also was honored with a council congratulatory resolution. Skog was one of only four nonprofit leaders selected as a Ho'okele Award 2010 recipient.
Skog's award was based on nominations from the community and "her selfless devotion to making a difference in Hawaii; and her numerous leadership traits, which include her ability to think strategically and get results, bring diverse groups of people together, inspire others and enthusiastically share knowledge," the resolution said.
Skog was elected MEDB's fourth president and chief executive officer in 1999. She is the first Maui-born resident to assume those positions.
"I am so blessed," Skog said as she accepted the resolution. "It's been a great journey, and thank you so much for this honor."
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.