WAILUKU — Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino faces seven challengers in his primary bid for reelection this year.
The mayor’s Special Election is nonpartisan, with the top two vote-getters in Saturday’s Primary Election advancing to the Nov. 8 General Election.
Lahaina News sent questionnaires to all of the candidates — Cullan Bell, Richard Bissen, Kim Brown, Alana Kay, Kelly Takaya King, Jonah Lion, Mike Molina and Mayor Victorino — and asked them about current issues and their priorities.
Bell, 33, emphasized that he’s not a politician. He is the owner of a small construction business, C. Bell Construction Inc., and has served as a youth flag football coach since 2017.
Bell said he’s running to create a better future for Maui County keiki.
“I am running for Maui County mayor for my children and my wife. I’m running to ensure a better life for them,” he explained.
For Bell, the top issues this election season include children “and how they’ve been treated for the past three years.
“Food security is another big one. Thirdly, affordable homes are nonexistent right now, and I plan on changing that for us and future generations,” he added.
If elected, Bell wants to ensure the safety and stability of all children. Another goal is water/stream restoration and water management to ensure that local farmers are supported.
“My focus will be put on putting Maui first in every aspect of life here. For too long, we’ve been treated like second-rate citizens in our own home. That time is done. We will take our home back,” he commented.
“If we strip the curtains down to all these closed door policies and backdoor deals, things will begin to get better immediately. Our government, and departments throughout the county, are corrupt, and the system is failing us. It’s time to take back control.”
Bell thinks residents should vote for him because he’s a fighter.
“I’ve fought for the truth and for our children the past three years. I will not stop fighting for our home. We will make Maui no ka ‘oi again,” he concluded.
Current Makawao-Haiku-Paia County Councilman Mike Molina, 62, feels his background has prepared him to serve as mayor.
“I feel that I would make an excellent mayor because of my current and prior legislative accomplishments, and reputation for being accessible, being responsive to concerns and to treating all voices with respect,” he explained.
According to Molina, the top three county-related issues this election season are affordable housing, economic diversification, and food sustainability and security.
If elected, Molina wants to expand the county’s affordable housing inventory and agriculture industry, and communicate better with the community.
“My goals include keeping in touch and keeping a positive relationship with the community and Maui County Council,” he added.
To improve life for residents here, Molina believes county government needs to improve the permit process — as recommended recently by an audit — expedite road and water improvements, and address residents’ quality of life concerns relating to tourism.
Molina has served as a Maui County Councilman from 2001 to 2010 and 2018 to the present.
After graduating from Maui High School in 1978, he attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and graduated with degrees in Sociology and Education.
Councilman Molina also served in the United States Air Force from 1978 to 1982 and the Hawaii Air National Guard from 1983 to 1985.
As a teacher for Kalama Intermediate School in the late 1990s, Molina initiated a school project involving students and parents that resulted in a recycling center for Makawao.
He is currently a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and an officer for the Maui Evangelical Church Board.
Molina pledged to continue to help the community as mayor.
“I am someone who has already worked with community stakeholders to produce legislation that has helped our community and will continue on this path if elected. I will seek to improve customer service to our citizens, and promote open and accessible government to help restore our citizen’s faith in government,” he concluded.
Victorino, 69, wants to continue working on initiatives to improve Maui County.
“Maui County is emerging from the worst public health and economic crisis of our lifetime. Recovery has begun, but much remains to be done. I am running to finish the job I started in 2019,” he noted.
“My motivation is my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the next generation of Maui residents who want to raise their families in the same kind of community we grew up in. There are challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome. For example, multiple affordable housing projects are opening up this summer and into the fall, and many more are in the process of starting construction.”
Mayor Victorino cited increasing the availability of housing that residents can afford to rent or purchase; diversification of the economy to reduce the county’s financial reliance on the hospitality industry while increasing local agriculture and renewable energy to be less dependent on imported food and fuel; and preparing for climate change, including sea level rise, by investing in resiliency centers, managed retreat and needed infrastructure, as the top issues this election season.
If reelected, his top goal is to green-light the nearly 3,000 approved affordable and attainable units currently in the pipeline.
“We will also leverage federal funding to improve our highways, roads and bridges, and to strengthen broadband service, especially in our rural areas. I will continue to invest strategically in economic diversification in renewable energy, agriculture, creative industries and health and wellness,” he said.
“We will encourage more and better use of public transit, safe walking and biking, and more transit-oriented development to eliminate the need to commute. Finally, I want to work in collaboration with the hospitality industry to better manage tourism numbers while working toward a kinder type of tourism that will improve the experience of Maui County for both residents and visitors.”
We asked the mayor what county government can do better to improve life for residents here.
“An example of what the government can do to improve life for residents is the Halau of ‘Oiwi Art planned for downtown Wailuku. This will be the first of its kind in the world to perpetuate hula and its associated arts as a benefit for and by the community,” he replied.
“Similarly, I have invested in land acquisitions to protect open space in perpetuity, such as the 500 acres of sacred land in Waiale and the 33 acres of Hana shoreline preserve the county invested in. We continue to seek out opportunities to acquire lands for long-term community benefit,” he continued.
“At the same time, the county is working to improve resident access to beaches and other attractions by reserving free parking for residents and charging visitors to park. We are also acquiring more parks and upgrading amenities and recreational offerings at existing county parks. We recently acquired more than 51 acres for a new park in West Maui near Maui Preparatory Academy. These efforts are in addition to the many services provided by the County of Maui.”
Victorino was elected to the Hawaii Board of Education, served ten years as the County Council representative for Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu and has been mayor for four years.
He has been endorsed by the ILWU, United Public Workers, IAFF Local 1463 (Firefighters Union), Local 368 (Laborers Union) and IUPAT District Council 50 (Union of Finishing Trades).
The Hilo High School graduate completed coursework in business at Hawaii Community College at Hilo.
Mayor Victorino has 40 years of community service, including coaching youth sports and volunteering for St. Anthony Church, Knights of Columbus, Maui County Fair, Binhi at Ani and many more.
Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, Victorino feels it’s important to have an experienced team in the Mayor’s Office.
“The pandemic confirmed that the right decisions aren’t always popular, and popular decisions aren’t always right. My motivation continues to be my aloha for the people of Maui County. The global situation remains very uncertain, so retaining a proven, experienced team in the Mayor’s Office is more important than ever,” he concluded.