BREAKING: Representative Mele Carroll of Maui Passes Away
By Wendy Osher
Former State Representative Diana “Mele” Carroll of Maui passed away at 3:50 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, according to an announcement from the state House of Representatives.
Carroll reportedly had family at her side.
Rep. Carroll recently stepped down from her role as a state lawmaker on Feb. 1, citing health concerns and complications with previous cancer treatments.
She began her sixth term at the state House when she was re-elected on Nov. 4, 2014 to the 13th House District seat that represents residents of East Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, and also includes Molokini.
In a statement today, House Speaker Joseph M. Souki of Maui said, “It is a very sad day for the House. Mele brought to the Legislature a vigorous desire to serve and deep love for Maui, Molokai and Lanai and Hawaiʻi in general. She will be greatly missed by everyone here at the Capitol. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”
Governor David Ige also extended his condolences with a statement saying, “Mele was an outstanding representative of her district, and we will remember the results she achieved and the Aloha spirit with which she conducted her work.”
Carroll started her career as a state lawmaker in 2005 when she was elected to the state House. Carroll, who was at the time working as a chief legislative liaison for Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, reportedly received a phone call from then Governor Linda Lingle to represent the district.
During her service under Arakawa, Carroll was credited with writing a $2 million federal grant proposal to the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that contributed to the purchase of 73 acres at Mūʻolea Point in the rural east Maui town of Hāna, according to the announcement.
Maui Mayor Arakawa extended his condolences in a statement saying, “I was deeply saddened to hear of Mele’s passing. She has been a tremendous friend for several decades now, having worked with her on the Council, on the Legislature, and especially as one of my Executive Assistants during my first mayoral term. She was a great advocate for the people of Maui County, and for the State of Hawaiʻi. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with her family during this time of grief.”
In addition to her work with the Arakawa administration, state officials say Carroll was a “key leader and instrumental in helping secure funding for the new emergency medical helicopter service for Maui County, working with a bi-partisan coalition of community leaders.”
Her work in government also included service as chief of staff to State Senator J. Kalani English for two years, and four years as his chief of staff at the Maui County Council.
Senator English commented saying, “While serving as my chief of staff, Mele garnered the proficiency and knowledge of the County of Maui and the Hawai‘i State Senate. She went on to make her own mark serving the people of Maui and our State and helping all those she came in contact with. Hawai‘i has suffered the loss of a dedicated leader and honorable public servant.”
While at the state House, Carroll served as chair of the House Committee on Human Service and as a member for the Committees on Health and Housing. During her tenure, she has also served as the chair of the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus, and a member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, Keiki Caucus, Kupuna Caucus, as well as the Historical Preservation Caucus.
Maui County Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi Chair Troy Hashimoto reflected upon Carroll’s passing saying, “It was just this past weekend that she was at the top of our minds as the District 13 Council met to select three individuals to replace her seat in the State House. I know that whoever replaces Representative Carroll will carry on her work and legacy of excellence.”
A committee reviewed a list of 13 candidates and narrowed the list to three finalists over the weekend. The list, which includes: Lori Buchanan of Molokaʻi, Lynn DeCoite of Molokai, and Lucienne De Naie of Huelo on Maui, was forwarded to the governor for consideration. Gov. Ige has 60 calendar days following the vacancy to choose a candidate to fill the seat.
Hashimoto continued saying, “She worked hard for the residents of District 13, always putting the concerns of her constituents first. Representing such a geographically large district with such diverse issues is a challenge, but she did it with ease and dedication. Representative Carroll will be dearly missed.
Services for Carroll are pending, and will be announced at a later date.