Skog to step down as MEDB chief

Jeanne Unemori Skog

Jeanne Unemori Skog, the longtime head of the Maui Economic Development Board who began with the nonprofit 33 years ago, will step down in June, she announced Friday.

“It was just time, and my next stage in life will still be giving back to the community. I love working with people. I love problem-solving and creating projects that problem solve,” she said.

She didn’t elaborate on what her next job might be, although she said she’d like to work on projects that involve the board.

Skog will be succeeded by Leslie Wilkins, MEDB’s current vice president.

Skog began with MEDB in 1984, around two years after it was formed by community, business and elected leaders to diversify the county’s economy from its two largest economic sectors, agriculture and tourism.

MEDB leaders subsequently elected her to the positions of corporate secretary, vice president and executive vice president before installing her as president and chief executive officer in 1999.

“We owe Jeanne Skog a great debt of gratitude for her 33 years of tireless service to MEDB — she will be sorely missed, but leaves the organization stronger and more vibrant than ever,” said Ned Davis, chairman of the board of directors.

Davis said there is a “strong succession plan” with Wilkins, who joined the organization in 1999 and has grown its science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — program from a pilot Maui project to one that serves 52,000 participants statewide and has garnered national recognition.

Skog said she’s proud of MEDB’s Focus Maui Nui community visioning process launched in 2003. In it, more than 1,700 residents shared their key values, priorities and strategies to guide future plans.

“It was massive,” Skog said of the project that reached out to the community.

The organization also has hosted conferences attended by international leaders in science fields along with government officials and business leaders. One of those conferences is the annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference, which has grown into an international forum for advancing research and development efforts in the field of space situational awareness, or the tracking of natural and man-made objects in space to avoid collisions of valuable space assets.

MEDB is a co-sponsor of the Maui Energy Conference in March. That annual event covers topics from energy policy to transportation and water-delivery systems. This year’s event will feature local, national and international speakers.

During her tenure, Skog expanded the board’s mission to lead and inspire innovation in business, education and community toward building a vibrant economy.

She augmented services and reach to innovation businesses to help them navigate and thrive in Maui County. MEDB has worked to prepare residents for new careers in innovation, business and education.

The organization relies on various funding sources, including federal, state, county and private-sector funding.

MEDB owns a building at the Maui Research & Technology Park in Kihei.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.