When David Hoff joined The Maui News as a sportswriter in 1977, the three-day-a-week afternoon paper was still operating out of leaking Quonset huts, with rats scurrying around the rafters and clattering typewriters making the newsroom ring.
"It was a real throwback to old-time newspapers," he recalled.
Over the next 35 years, Hoff would lead the paper through periods of fundamental change - both for Maui and the media landscape.
DAVID HOFF, announced his retirement
Hoff announced his retirement this month. His final day at the paper will be May 18.
Born and raised in Southern California, Hoff began his journalism career at the Escondito Times-Advocate. A high school athlete, he had befriended the paper's sportswriters, who invited him to work as a stringer after he went to college.
"I hadn't even thought about journalism," he said. "But the editor at the paper liked my work, and I found that I liked doing it."
He was hired as a sportswriter in 1969 and promoted to sports editor after two years.
Hoff fell in love with Maui on a vacation and eventually quit his job to move to the Valley Isle in 1977. A visit to then-Editor-in-Chief Nora Cooper led to a job offer, and he started working at the paper in Sports, moved to the copy desk after a year and was promoted to news editor in 1979.
Hoff replaced Earl Tanaka as managing editor in 1988, then was named editor in chief upon Cooper's retirement in 1992.
Cooper and Tanaka were "mentors," he said, who taught him what it meant to be a leader and a journalist.
From Cooper, he said, he learned the value of the paper's employees, and that if you treat your staff the way you would want to be treated, "you'll do great things."
Tanaka showed him "how things are done on Maui," and taught him to be a stickler for accuracy.
"He always said, the printed word could not be erased," Hoff recalled.
He was also grateful for the support of members of the Cameron family, who, as then-owners of The Maui News, made a significant investment in expanding the paper with more reporters, more publication days and a full-color press.
As he took on more and more of a leadership role, Hoff said, he made it a priority to beef up the paper's coverage of local events, including building a strong focus on government reporting, covering local crime and the court system, increasing coverage of local arts and sports, becoming more "current" in breaking news coverage, and hiring strong journalists.
Hoff was among those who advocated for the paper to increase from three to five days a week, even though many readers were skeptical of the change.
"Most of the comments from people were, 'Why?' " he recalled. "They said, 'There's not enough news on Maui for five days a week.' "
Memorable stories covered by the paper during Hoff's tenure included the Aloha Airlines Flight 243 disaster in 1988; the landmark mayoral election between then-Council Member Linda Lingle and former Mayor Elmer Cravalho in 1990; the Daniel Kosi standoff and double-murder in 1997; the Hawaii Air Ambulance crash in 2006; and the tsunami of 2011.
But Hoff said he was most proud of the paper's role in covering the "day to day" unfolding of major changes in Maui's community - from the demise of sugar and pineapple as major industries on the island, to the rise of tourism, to the county's changing political spectrum, to the influx of new residents and new development.
"We documented that," he said. "Those were historic events."
Hoff said he was grateful for the support of Publisher Joe Bradley and owner Ogden Publishing, who retained him as editor and kept the newsroom staff in place after acquiring the paper in 2000.
"They've been nothing but supportive of me," he said.
He also thanked his wife, Pam.
"I couldn't have done it without her," he said. "She has been so supportive."
Starting May 19, News Editor Lee Imada is set to replace Hoff in the role of managing editor at the paper. The new title will allow Imada to retain a hands-on role in producing the paper, without violating the terms of the employees' union contract.
Hoff noted that he had worked with Imada for more than 30 years, and he said that knowing that the news editor would be taking over the newsroom had made his decision to retire easier.
"I've got complete trust and faith in him," he said.
Imada credited Hoff with shaping him as a journalist.
"Dave had a hand in hiring me way back in 1981 after I graduated from college, and has been my boss ever since," he said. "I have learned so much from him about journalism and about life through the years. We have experienced a lot personally and professionally, and under his leadership we have worked to bring the major stories in Maui County over the last three decades to our readers.
"It will be strange and sad for him not to be my boss, not to see him in his office. I will miss him and do my best to live up to his standards and his ideals."
Bradley praised Hoff's professionalism.
"I've been in the newspaper business for 42 years, and David Hoff is the best editor I've ever worked with. He's hardworking, dedicated; and he's been a great mentor to all the young people on our staff. He's very able, a very good person; and we're going to miss him tremendously. The Maui News has been lucky to have David for 35 years now, and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
Hoff noted that he was leaving The Maui News even as newspapers face an uncertain future in the wake of fundamental shifts in the industry's economic model, caused by the rise of the Internet and social media. But he said that by remaining a credible source of information about local government, crime and business, newspapers could continue to play an important and necessary role in the community.
"We're operating with a smaller staff now," he said. "The whole business model for newspapers is changing. But there's no question in my mind that The Maui News will continue to be the best and most credible source of news on Maui."