KAHULUI - Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees left the replacement of former member Boyd Mossman in the governor's hands, after they were unable to reach a decision on the appointment Monday.
The OHA board met for hours in a special Maui meeting, hearing from scores of Valley Isle residents urging a decision on the four nominees for the position. But the seven trustees in attendance could not muster the six votes required to appoint one of the four to fulfill the year remaining in Mossman's term. After 14 rounds of voting on the nominees, the board unanimously declared an impasse, leaving Gov. Neil Abercrombie until the end of January to make a decision.
"I don't want the governor to decide," said Chairwoman Collette Machado. "But we have exhausted every avenue."
Mossman, a retired 2nd Circuit judge and former vice chairman of OHA, resigned his Maui seat effective Nov. 1 to take a three-year unpaid position as president of the Kona Hawai'i Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At Monday's board meeting, 24-year-old University of Hawaii graduate Mark Kaniela Ing garnered the most votes, and drew the attention of trustees who said they wanted to see more young people represented on the board, but he fell one vote short of the required six.
Alu Like manager, taro farmer and Hui o Na Wai Eha founder Rose Marie Hooulunahui Duey, and noted Hawaiian music vocalist, real estate broker and former county employee Carmen Kahulumealani "Hulu" Lindsey, each garnered one vote. Development consultant, former A&B executive and nonprofit board member Mercer "Chubby" Vicens was eliminated after several rounds of voting.
It was the second time the OHA board was unable to decide on Mossman's successor. At a meeting last month in Honolulu, Vicens received five votes, while Duey won two. Trustees decided to reopen the list to more nominees and schedule Monday's follow-up meeting to hear from Maui residents.
Both Duey and Vicens said they planned to run as candidates for the seat in the 2012 general election.
"All of the people here talked me into it," Duey said, gesturing to the crowd of supporters behind her. "I know they're on my side."
"I believe in the cause," Vicens said.
But Lindsey said she would not run against an incumbent for the seat, and Ing said he has already made plans to run for the state House of Representatives.
More than 50 Maui residents signed up to speak at the hearing that lasted nearly five hours.
Roselle Bailey said she "could not believe (her) eyes" when she read last month that the board was considering leaving the decision up to the governor.
"You have revealed your true selves," she said.
She said Duey was "the very best candidate. She knows every aspect and aspiration of Hawaii nei," Bailey said.
Taro farmer Victor Pellegrino praised Duey's involvement in water rights and advocating against genetically modified taro.
"She does not sit idly by, but moves forward to preserve Hawaiian rights and values," he said.
Kainoa Horcajo said Duey "has integrity, she has compassion, she has the energy of a 15-year-old."
He pointed to her long involvement in issues ranging from water rights to restoration of the Olowalu ahupuaa to Alu Like.
"Knowing what she's done for the community of Maui, I can only imagine what she could do for the whole Hawaiian community," he said.
Cultural practitioner Kahulu Maluo, Lindsey's daughter, said her mother was fair, hardworking and a "strong woman who commits herself 200 percent to whatever she takes on."
Kawika Freitas, general manager of Old Lahaina Luau, called Lindsey a "leader."
"She shares her culture through song and dance," he said.
Bruce U'u of the Hawaii Carpenters Union said Vicens "has the ability to bring people together."
"With Chubby, it's always 'us' and 'we,' " he said. "Not 'I' as an individual."
Saying he spoke for Mayor Alan Arakawa, county Budget Director Sandy Baz urged "strong support" for Vicens.
He said he had worked with Vicens "as an advocate for Maui's less fortunate," including his involvement on the boards of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Maui Food Bank, Maui Economic Opportunity and the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
"It was clear Chubby was not looking for personal benefit but for the benefit of Maui's people, especially Native Hawaiians," Baz said.
"The three words that come in my mind are balance, commitment and courage," Bobby Pahia said of Vicens.
Burt Sakata acknowledged all the candidates were "well liked," but urged trustees to think of Vicens' close ties with A&B, a major landholder and a publicly traded company that is "beholden to their shareholders" and focused on the bottom line.
"Lands that they hold are not seen as a cultural asset, they are seen as money," he said, adding, "Even though we think of it as a local company, they are not a local company anymore."
Instead, he pointed to Duey as someone who ran a successful family business while also remaining strongly involved in the community as an advocate on Native Hawaiian issues and programs.
"I think she's the right person for the community of Maui," he said.
Trustee Peter Apo said it was "very, very painful" to have to pick only one nominee.
"The good news is we have some real choices," he said.
But he reminded OHA beneficiaries that the appointment was only for a temporary position, until the seat comes up for election.
"It's going to be less than a year when the people of Maui decide who will represent them," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.