Maui’s first mayor, Elmer Cravalho, dies

Elmer Cravalho (KHON2 archives)

Hawaii is mourning the passing of Maui County’s first mayor.

Elmer Cravalho died Monday night, county officials confirmed. He was 90 years old.

He served as Maui’s mayor from 1969 to 1979.

Current Mayor Alan Arakawa said he not only lost a colleague, but also a close friend.

“We were both in the hog farming business, so we knew each other on a personal basis,” Arakawa said. “He used to be at the house all the time talking story and business.”

Arakawa also described Cravalho as one of the most intelligent people he knew, who “was decades ahead of the curve” and pioneered many developments for Maui.

“He started the movement with agriculture when it was going down. He saw that and started to develop a water line to Wailea and the tourist industry we have here,” Arakawa said. “He actually was the one who started sewer treatment. We went from ocean outfall to secondary. We were the first community in the state to start that program.”

Prior to his role as Maui mayor, Cravalho served as a member and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Territory and State of Hawaii.

Several lawmakers released the following statements:

“An era has passed with Elmer Cravalho. He was iconic in local politics and a guiding force in creating the State of Hawai‘i. Elmer was renowned in Maui County for helping the new immigrants from the Philippines integrate into the United States to become a vibrant part of our community. He was also an architect of Maui’s infrastructure and development by limiting growth to the South and West side of the island to preserve the natural beauty on the East and North side. My sincere condolences go out to the Cravahlo family.” – Senate Majority Leader, Senator J. Kalani English, State Senate District 7 (Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe)

“I am saddened by the passing of Mayor Elmer Cravalho. He was one of the remaining bridges between the Plantation era where everyone had some link to agriculture to today’s Maui that relies heavily on the visitor industry and construction. He worked to make sure the local community and working people received some tangible and lasting benefits from the rapid development growth that followed statehood. He may have received some criticism for how he negotiated those benefits but I will always admire how he stood up for folks who were committed to living on Maui and raising our families here. Mayor Cravalho was also always a great friend of the Filipino community and helped open up opportunities for Filipinos to contribute to Maui’s civic life. My condolences to my friends Karolyn and Ronald and the entire Browning ‘ohana.” – Senator Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran, State Senate District 5 (Kahului- Puunene- Wailuku- Waiehu- Waihee)

“I am truly sorry about the passing of Elmer Carvalho. He was a masterful legislative leader and an inspirational politician who cared deeply for his community. Elmer worked hard for the everyday person and stood up for their best interests. You could always see him in the community talking story over a cup of coffee as he was the kind of man who was always approachable. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall while he was Speaker of the House because I know I would have learned a lot from him. While his loss will be felt by many, he left a great legacy for all of us in Maui County.” – Senator Rosalyn H. Baker, State Senate District 6 (South and West Maui)

“He will be remembered as a strong negotiator for the people of Maui. Under his leadership both in business and politics, the island of Maui has prospered… He was a great man and a good friend. He will be dearly missed.” – House Speaker Joseph Souki

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