Maui Economic Opportunity CEO McNeff to Retire

January 26, 2017, 2:11 PM HST · Updated January 26, 2:11 PM
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Lyn McNeff. Courtesy Photo, MEO.

Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. Chief Executive Officer, Lyn McNeff will retire at the end of March after more than 23 years of service. She will be succeeded by MEO Chief Operating Officer Debbie Cabebe.

When announcing her retirement to executive staff, McNeff said, “I really wasn’t planning to retire at this time, but my husband has been dealing with some health challenges and I want to be there for him.”

McNeff joined MEO in 1993 as the organization’s Education/Disabilities Coordinator and was quickly promoted to director. Under her leadership several Head Start centers received accreditation and the program was recognized nationally as a program of excellence, the only program in Hawaiʻi to attain this status.

In 1998 McNeff received recognition as a Johnson and Johnson Fellows, graduating from the program that was held on the campus of UCLA. McNeff was also recruited to join the National Head Start Review team to act as an auditor for Head Start programs throughout the country.

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In 2005 she was promoted to Chief Programs Officer, where she implemented regular fiscal meetings including line-staff responsible for the day to day program activities. This change greatly impacted the programs’ ability to monitor progress and expend funds in a more efficient manner. She also successfully wrote and administrated several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants bringing much needed jobs and services to Maui County.

In 2011 McNeff became the sixth Chief Executive since MEO was established in 1965. She took the rein at a very difficult time. The federal government imposed “sequestration” on the federally funded programs. In order to minimize the impact to the clients and staff, she used attrition and took cuts to the administrative budget to keep direct service staff working.

McNeff stabilized the Vineyard Street “BEST House” property leasing space to Aloha House, a drug treatment recovery program, and Aria’s Restaurant to ensure the building was used for its intended purpose of serving formally incarcerated and other disadvantaged individuals. She also secured temporary funding to upkeep the agency’s Ke Kahaua Farm in Waiheu while regular funding or a private partnership could be secured.

During her tenure as CEO McNeff was successful in moving MEO Transportation from its old “temporary” Kahului site, where it was housed since 1969, to its permanent site in Puʻunēnē. McNeff acknowledges pervious MEO executives, state, county and federal legislators and the many private partners and donors who helped make this dream a reality.

This past year McNeff was selected to sit on the governor’s Community-Based Economic Advisory Council and was part of the mayor’s HC&S Taskforce.

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