Lanai lost a rare elected official this week — one who was a champion for us.

It’s rare for any of our elected officials to pay much attention to our little 3,000-resident enclave over here, an expensive-to-travel 70 miles from the State Capitol. Many (perhaps most) have never even set foot on Lanai, and some may still think they need permission from the current majority landowner, Larry Ellison (who succeeded David Murdock, who succeeded James Dole, who succeeded the Gays and the Baldwins, who succeeded Walter Murray Gibson).

Mele Carroll chambers

Rep. Mele Carroll stands in House chambers. She passed away Wednesday.

House of Representatives

But Mele Carroll was different. Mele liked coming here and visited several times a year, often with her gentle husband, Warren. Not just before Election Day like most of the other elected officials, but whenever an issue needing her personal attention arose, or when we needed her.

She came.

And she listened.

And visits to her Oahu office were like visiting old friends. Her staff knew us all and welcomed us whenever we were in the square building.

And so her death leaves a big hole, but her life leaves us many strong and fond memories. Mele has been a stalwart champion for our keiki and our health providers, we will not easily replace her passion for those issues.

But most of all, we will remember her for her courage during the early stages of the struggles against Murdock’s Big Wind on Lanai project.

We invited a number of state senators and representatives to come to Lanai and talk story with the many Lanai residents opposed to destroying one-quarter of Lanai with hundreds of wind turbines taller than the First Hawaiian Bank building in Honolulu. They came, took a tour, then spent two hours in our yard listening to over 100 island residents talk about why they did not want this project in their home. Many spoke from their hearts, especially the Native Hawaiians who met with the legislators separately, just before they returned to Oahu.

And Mele heard them. Heard them deep in her heart.

Later, she came over twice for meetings with residents in our home. She told us of her challenges in officially or publicly opposing Big Wind.

The ILWU, for example, had been a major supporter of Mele. She had family in the ILWU, several even on Lanai. And at first she believed the ILWU’s arguments about jobs.

But gradually, with her heart, eyes and ears wide open, she realized that the propaganda they were spreading was just plain wrong.

And she became our champion.

We will miss you, Mele.

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