The Second in a Series.
Photos courtesy Vicky Cayetano
Editor’s note: In 2022, Leadership for the State and Maui County will be at the forefront with elections for Governor, Maui Mayor, Council, and due to reapportionment, all State Senators and State Representatives. The primary election will be held on August 13, 2022 with the General Election on November 8, 2022, and it’s not too early to start thinking about the type of State and County leaders needed. While no one officially declared their respective candidacies when this series started (Cayetano recently made an official announcement), several have expressed interest in the gubernatorial race: former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Business Executive/former First Lady Vicky Cayetano, and current Lt. Governor Josh Green. They were simultaneously sent identical questions with the same response date.
This month’s focus is on Business Executive/former First Lady Vicky Cayetano while October’s focus will be on Lt. Governor Josh Green. (August’s focus was on former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.)
1. In 100 words or less, please tell us your background, including details about your family, education, and experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
I was born in Manila, the sixth of nine children. My parents were Chinese immigrants who moved to the Philippines in the 19th Century to escape the famine that was ravaging China. I was three years old when our family moved to the U.S. eventually settling in San Francisco where I grew up. After I graduated from high school, I attended Stanford University and majored in business and economics. I left Stanford prior to my junior year to form a business, a travel agency which serviced corporate clients. Four years later I sold the successful business when I moved my family to Hawai‘i.
Thirty-four years ago, my partner and I founded United Laundry Services, a commercial laundry serving hotels, hospitals and clinics. Since then, I have served as its President and helped it become Hawai‘i’s biggest commercial laundry with branches on O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island, employing nearly 1,000 workers. the majority of whom are Filipinos.
In 1997, I married my husband Ben Cayetano, who is the first Filipino-American governor in U.S. history. Whether as First Lady or as President of United Laundry Services, I have been involved in assisting many nonprofits and charitable organizations and continue to do so.
2. In 200 words or less, please tell us: a) What is your vision for Hawai‘i/Maui? b) What is right with Hawai‘i/Maui? c) What is wrong with Hawai‘i/ Maui?
It is important that we apply the lessons learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic. “Restoring” Hawai‘i to what it was before is not good enough. It would be a mistake to just return to business as usual. We must build a Hawai‘i that is better than before. Working with other community leaders, I will provide the leadership to develop new and innovative ways to improve the lives of our people, in particular, our young, too many of whom are leaving our state, and our elderly living off ever shrinking retirement incomes, who struggle most from the high, ever-increasing cost of living.
My team and I have already developed some new ideas to deal with issues such as affordable housing, the homeless, sustainable tourism and healthcare. There are many other important issues, of course, and I will be more specific when I formally announce my candidacy. I pledge to you that the leadership I provide will be honest, innovative, transparent, independent of special interests—and I will listen to all for their concerns and ideas to improve our people’s lives.
3. In 125 words or less, please describe your relationship with Hawai‘i’s/Maui’s Filipino community.
From its beginning, the overwhelming majority of my company’s workers are Filipinos, many are migrants from the Philippines. Besides interacting with them nearly every day, our relationship is such that I know many by their first names. I’ve been invited to and attended their many social events—birthdays, anniversaries, listened and celebrated with them on personal matters. Many of our original workers have worked for me for more than twenty years. I treat them with respect and loyalty which they have returned to me in kind.
4. In 500 words or less, please identify and explain the three greatest needs of Hawai‘i’s/ Maui’s Filipino community.
I believe that like many other communities in our State, issues like sustainable tourism, affordable housing, the high cost of living, climate change, crime and homelessness, education and healthcare would be at the top of the list.
I am also aware that one issue concerning Filipinos (that relates more on the federal level) is the difficulty due to issues related to COVID of being able to bring relatives and family members to live here in Hawai‘i. Filipinos are an extremely family-focused people; they care for each other and are not truly happy unless all in the family are safe, well, and close. Frequently, that means being together in the same country or state. Although this is not something the Hawai‘i governor can impact directly, it is a concern that I plan to address with federal authorities when appropriate.
In closing, I want to thank Maui’s Fil-Am Voice for giving me the opportunity to speak to Maui’s Filipino community and, in the coming months, to learn more from them.