January 2009 Issue
By CJ Ancheta
FOR the first time in the history of Maui, a Filipino who descended the Ilocano sugarcane plantation workers, was unnanimously voted to chair the Maui County Council.
Dennis A. Mateo, or "Danny," a son of Inocentes Mateo of Laoag City, Philippines, and Nora Lopez, will show us the way to taking active participation in the political life of the diverse communities of Maui. His feat is historical. For the first time, an Iloocano-descended Filipino will lead in the conduct of the political affairs of the county's affair.
His father immigrated to Hawaii on 1929. It was this same parent who installed in him the values of hard work, dedication and commitment. Most importantly, his father never wavered in his recognition of his heritage, his pride in being an Ilokano, and his equal pride in being a Filipino in Hawai'i even when such acts of acknowledgementwere not the rule of the thumb especially in those days when being Ilokano and extension, Filipino- was equivalent to being a plantation worker, a farmhand.
Danny saw clearly in the examples of his father that the valuing of one's heritage does not dimminish one's person but rather enchances one's perspective of life, of community, and of the virtues of diversity.
Danny and the rest of the council members were inaugarated last January 2nd at the Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building.
Prior to Danny's assumption of this new leadership role, he was vice chairman of the council and representing Molokai.
He reflects his humble beginnings and his acknowledgement of where he comes from is what he gives him strength and the motivation to do well, and serve better.
For more than eleven years prior to his election to representg Molokai, Danny served as an executive assistant to then Council Chairman Patrick S. Kawano of Molokai.
When Kawano passed away in 2002, Danny was appointed to fill in the position vacated by Kawano's death. Later that year, he was elected to the position. During the last two elections, he ran unopposed.
Richard Caldito, Sr., noted Filipino community leader and former vice chairman of Maui County Board of Supervisors, congratulated Danny. Caldito said Danny is a role model for generations to come.
Two years ago, Danny spearheaded Maui's Housing Policy. That policy requires tha developers allot 40-50% of all units to be affordable. That policy went through a riugh time before ita was approved. At the end of the day, the working class people of Maui benefited from such visionary approache to housing ownership.
Danny said the council will focus on establishing priorities, the issues affecting the country will be given top consideration by the eight committees of the council, their work always guided by the interest of their stakeholders and various communities they serve.
At the county level, a haelthy wroking relationship between the executive and legislative branch is vital in the approval of bills. Danny believes that there's a good rapport between Maui Mayor Charmane Tavares and the county council-- a rapport that is necessary in the drawing up of legislation that will benefit the county.
Danny takes pride in the examples of his parents. When his father arrived in Hawai'i. he worked in various sugarcane plantations. First in Hana, then in Paia, and then later molved to Makawao.
Danny went all through all these transfer. He kept on his studies, and graduated from St. Anthony High School on Wailuku. From there, he attended the University of Hawai'i [UH] at Hilo, and then finished his associate degree in human services.
While in Hilo, he worked for Tropical Rent-A-Car and later promoted to a management position on Molokai.
He and his wife Clarissa eventually settled in Molokai where they raised their three children: Dennis, Jr, Heidi and Nora. They now have eleven grandchildren.
Danny later on joined the Maui County as Molokai Economic Development Coordinator. Then he worked for Kaluakoi Resort as Public Relations and Community Liaison.
In recognition of his numerous significant contribusions to the well being of the community and his indefatigablepublic service, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations [NaFFAA], Region XII honored danny Mateo as one of Hawai'i's 23rd Filipino American elected officials last August 22, 2008*
*See Related Article in www.dagitikappurosadamdamagitihawaii.blogspot.com]
Posted by Rudy Ram. Rumbaoa