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Molina emerges as third candidate for Maui County mayor

Longtime council member, teacher to face off with Victorino, Bissen

Mike Molina is interviewed on the night of the general election, Nov. 6, 2018, by Akaku Maui Community Media’s Chivo Ching-Johnson. Molina, who won reelection to his former Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency seat in 2018, announced Tuesday that he is now running for Maui County mayor. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Longtime Maui County Council Member Mike Molina on Tuesday threw his hat into the mayoral race, joining incumbent Mayor Michael Victorino and recently retired 2nd Circuit Court Chief Judge Richard Bissen, who announced their intentions to run last week.

“We need leadership that is responsive, accountable and willing to work towards unifying our community during these difficult times,” Molina said in a news release Tuesday afternoon. “Much of my legislative accomplishments were made possible by keeping an open and respectful exchange of ideas with the community. I am firmly committed to maintaining this process so we can build on the lessons learned from the pandemic and prosper together.”

Molina, Bissen and Victorino, who is seeking reelection for a second four-year term, are the first candidates to announce their plans to run for mayor, with the official filing period still over a month away.

Candidate filing for the 2022 elections begins March 1, with the primary election set for Aug. 13, and the general election on Nov. 8, according to the state Office of Elections.

Molina currently holds the Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency seat on the council and is chairman of the council’s Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee.

Council Member Mike Molina presides over a Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee meeting in January 2019.

He initially served on the council from 2001 to 2010, until consecutive term limits kept him from running again. In 2018, after council Chairman Mike White decided not to seek reelection, Molina ran for the district seat and won. He was reelected in 2020.

In between stints on the council, Molina worked as an executive assistant to then-Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa from 2011 to 2017, where he oversaw boards and commissions.

As a mayoral candidate, Molina’s priorities include housing, public safety, the environment, economic diversification, food security and tourism management, the news release said.

When it comes to housing, Molina is “committed to working with the council and community stakeholders” on efforts that include establishing public-private partnerships to develop affordable housing on government-owned properties and private lands, according to his campaign website.

He also would like to expand Maui County’s economic base beyond tourism by continuing his support of agricultural food production expansion for local consumption and exporting food products off island. He also would like to develop a food security plan to prepare for any crisis.

Molina said he also wants to focus on health care services and develop partnerships with private businesses and educational institutions to establish medical training programs for well-paying health care jobs.

He also would like to work with the visitor industry and stakeholders “to rebrand Maui County tourism as a place for healing and to treat with respect its natural beauty, the Hawaiian culture and our ethnic diversity.”

Molina also plans to work with various community groups and the council to balance the need for housing and economic growth with sensitivity to its environmental impacts.

During his time on the council, Molina authored a charter amendment to establish an affordable housing fund, created the first-time homebuyers program and introduced an outdoor lighting bill meant to minimize the impact of lighting on flight paths of birds. He also introduced the bill that led to the ban on plastic bags.

In addition to his council duties, Molina is a substitute teacher for the state Department of Education, and a board member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Maui Evangelical Church and the Kalama School Community Council.

Born and raised in Makawao, Molina is a 1978 graduate of Maui High School and the University of Hawaii at Hilo with degrees in sociology and education. Before being elected to his first term in the council, he was a public school teacher from 1987 to 2000.

He is also a military veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard.

Molina is married to his wife of 30 years, Cielo Batan Molina, and has three children and five grandchildren.

For more information, visit www.votemikemolina.com.

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

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