Government tends to view citizens as individuals; Hawaiians see people in the context of all their connections to family, church, work, clubs, neighborhood and community. As island dwellers, sticking together helps us grasp opportunities and survive hard times. 'Ohana extends to our community and shapes our lives. Most important to my career were my 'ohana, who gave me opportunities to grow.
My German grandfather was a sea captain who moved to Maui with my Hawaiian grandmother in the late 1800s. He retired from the sea, lived in Kanaio and helped many Hawaiians file for kuleana lands. In the late 1930s, my dad married Hattie Kaha'awainui and moved to Wailuku to work for Maui Electric Company. He worked weekends at Apana's Junkyard for the use of Apana's truck to visit our family in 'Ulupalakua on Saturday afternoons.
After the war, Dad started an electrical contracting business, working out of his "shop"--a recycled Army jeep. My brother and I helped, drilling holes with a hand drill.
Special Executive Assistant, Planning for Mayor Alan Arakawa
On the plane back from my Kamehameha School graduation, Dad met Charles Kendall, who offered me a football scholarship to the University of Dayton in Ohio! In a few weeks, I was off to the Mainland with a new 'ohana--the Pohlking family of Dayton--looking after me.
In 1961 at the end my senior year, Norma and I fell in love and married. I graduated Army ROTC, but at Ft. Bragg, they discovered I had asthma and was denied an officer's commission. Back in Dayton, I found a government job as a deputy sheriff. Four years later, I landed a job as a sales engineer with General Electric. Dad's training paid off.
In 1970, Dad came to Ohio and asked me to return home and work with him. To be sure of my decisions, I went to work for an electrical contractor in Dayton. After a year, I felt ready to go to Maui. Dad forgot to tell me that his company was so small he couldn't afford to pay me, so I ended up on unemployment for six months while we expanded Piltz Electrical.
Little by little, my business education helped us outgrow a converted gas station on Vineyard and Church streets in Wailuku.
In 1974, Pundy Yokouchi told us Seibu Holdings wanted to buy our land in Makena, which we traded for a lot on Central Avenue, where Piltz Electrical flourished for 32 years.
As a businessman, I served my community on the Planning and Land Use Commissions for a total of nine years. I even ran for lieutenant governor with Frank Fasi in 1982. Norma encouraged me, saying, "You'll never know until you try." Even though we lost, I got to know many people who shared my desire to improve jobs, housing and education in Hawai'i.
Norma passed in 2008. Now retired from business, I work on the county permit process and job creation as an executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa. As a board member of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, I practice the Hawaiian tradition of 'ohana, building and preserving good relationships among our members, so they can create mutual opportunities for one another.
'Ohana takes a lot of effort, but it breeds success.