Local politicians and others remembered former Maui Mayor and House Speaker Elmer Cravalho as a strong negotiator and great businessman who will be dearly missed. He died Monday at age 90.

“Under his leadership both in business and politics, the island of Maui has prospered,” said House Speaker Joseph Souki, who’s from Maui.

In 1954, Cravalho rose to prominence during Hawaii’s Democratic Party revolution, a House news release says. He served as speaker of the state and territorial House from 1958 to 1967.

Elmer Cravalho
Elmer Cravalho, the first mayor of Maui, died Monday. Wayne Shakey Boteilho/Facebook

Cravalho was the one who got to deliver a message from Gov. John Burns to a packed House chambers in Iolani Palace that the U.S. Congress had approved statehood for Hawaii in 1959.

“He was a great man and a good friend,” Souki said. “He will be dearly missed.”

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono described Cravalho as a “politically astute visionary.”

“He cared for Maui first and foremost and his primary concern during his time in public office was to do what was best for Maui County,” she said. “One of the areas where Elmer left a lasting impact is the diversification of Maui’s economy. He was a leader in developing and growing Maui’s visitor industry.”

State Senate Majority Leader Kalani English said Cravalho was “iconic” in local politics.

“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 said. “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.”

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