Featured Members at Work

HGEA members make up a diverse group of workers from all walks of life. They have interesting jobs where they are providing vital services to the public that help to keep our state and counties safe and running efficiently — and they recognize the value of belonging to their union, HGEA. Outside of their jobs, they take care of their families, give back to their communities and have fun living in Hawaii. They could be your neighbor, sister or friend. Read about some of them here.

A Lifestyle of Passion and Dedication

Registered nurse Karisa Deitch has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. She is one of many healthcare workers performing the very essential service of vaccinating people in the fight to end the pandemic.

Preparing for Higher Education's New Normal

  Director of Resource Development Brandon Marc Higa found himself in a unique position to help the University of Hawaii when COVID-19 hit, overseeing and securing funding for Kapiolani Community College and its partners.

Living and Spreading Aloha

  Hilliary Pilialoha makes the daily trek from Nanakuli to Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay to her job that she loves at the Mōkapu Transition Center. As transition coordinator at Mōkapu Elementary School, Pilialoha helps students of Marine and Navy families adjust to the change of moving to a new school and learning a different culture. With her warm smile and positive nature, she lives and spreads the aloha spirit.

Helping to Keep Hawaii Schools Safe, Secure and Prepared

As a safety and security specialist with the state Department of Education's Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness Branch, Unit 6 member Orasa Fernandez works to make sure all DOE schools statewide are ready and prepared for any kind of emergency, whether it's man-made or a natural disaster. It is her job and the explosive eruption of Kilauea in May 2018 that brought her back home to Hawaii Island.

 Sun Up to Sun Down Lifeguard Coverage Begins at Hanauma Bay

  In the new Ocean Safety District 5 at Hanauma Bay on Oahu’s east side, work hours for ocean safety officers (Unit 14 members) are extended in a pilot program that gives the public added protection. Hanauma Bay is one of the top tourist destinations on Oahu, with 1.5 million visitors in 2017. Extending lifeguard coverage helps to prevent any potential accidents and ensure the public is safe.

Critical Link: HPD’s Police Radio Dispatchers and 911 Emergency Response Operators

  The Honolulu Police Department’s Communications Division is the heartbeat of the HPD and the pulse of the community. They're the dedicated workers who field the more than 1 million 911 calls that come in each year, non-stop. The 911 emergency response operators find out what type of call is coming in and route it to police, the fire department or ambulance. The calls for police are sent to the police radio dispatchers on the floor.

Making Children’s Mental Health Matter

For more than 30 years, Earl Young has had a rewarding career helping people with mental health challenges. As mental health supervisor with the state Department of Health Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division, he oversees a team of mental health care coordinators responsible for providing case management services to children and youth ages 3-20 with complex emotional and behavioral problems. He also remains a committed and involved HGEA member as a longtime steward, chair of the Unit 13 Oahu Island Division and member of the Unit 13 negotiating team.

Managing Oahu’s Urban Forest

Brandon Au, certified arborist and park grounds improvement supervisor with the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Division of Urban Forestry, has a passion for trees and plants and helping to keep our future green. He is one of our City & County of Honolulu employees helping to attain the City’s goals of planting 100,000 trees across the island of Oahu by 2025 and to increasing the urban tree canopy cover to 35 percent by 2035. Au was named the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Employee of the Year in 2018.

Fighting for Our Future

Ginet Hayes has been a longtime HGEA steward and chair of the Unit 13 negotiations team, helping to make decisions that benefit all HGEA members. In her job with the state Department of Human Services Benefit, Employment & Support Services Division, she works to improve the quality of life for everyone in our state.

Artful Members Working Together for You

At the Hawaii State Art Museum, affectionately known as HiSAM, there is a cohesion of HGEA members who work tirelessly behind the scenes to preserve, promote and perpetuate the arts in Hawaii. The museum is more than just a gallery. Meet some of your fellow members who are passionate about their jobs and enjoy sharing with the community the many programs and services offered by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Advocating For You: Legislative Action Gets Results

HGEA members Helen Hamada (Unit 8) and Ricki Aikau (Unit 3) were instrumental in expanding Hawaii's family leave law, which now allows most employees in Hawaii to take family leave to care for a sibling with a serious health condition. It took six legislative sessions to do it, but this story illustrates the importance of taking action and how the persistence of HGEA staff and members can get the job done.

Protecting Big Island’s Land and Natural Resources

Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer James Ridzon loves his job. He never knows what his day will be like when he goes to work. Having worked with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources on the Big Island for nearly 10 years, he received the first-ever DLNR/DOCARE Officer of the Year award in 2017 for being “an effective investigator and strong protector of Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources.”

Managing Challenges of Providing State Law Enforcement

One of only three female deputy sheriffs, out of approximately 39 deputy sheriffs, on Hawaii Island, Deputy Sheriff Audrey Kahawai-Kekipi works at Hale Kaulike Judiciary in the Hilo district providing law enforcement services under the state Department of Public Safety. This includes providing transports and escorts of inmates and custodies to and from the courts or off island and executing warrants of arrests as well as responding to incidents within the courtrooms, to confrontations and domestic violence situations in the common areas and/or parking lots, and to situations within the vicinity involving persons needing medical assistance due to illnesses or injuries.

Drug Takeback Program Helps Communities

Valerie Mariano (Unit 13), branch chief of Community and Crime Prevention in the state Department of the Attorney General, educates the public on crime prevention and safety as well as substance abuse prevention and anti-bullying initiatives. And several times each year the department partners with the Drug Enforcement Administration, State Narcotics Enforcement Division, and county law enforcement to provide convenient drug-take back events statewide where the public can drop off unused, expired or no longer needed medications for proper disposal and to prevent accidental poisoning in homes.

Cultivating the Art of Food Service

In his nearly 30-year culinary career, Unit 2 member Francis Santa Monica has worked hard and given back to students, his co-workers and his community. It's no wonder the school food services manager of Ewa Makai Middle School was honored with the state Department of Education's Manager of the Year award. He embodies the school's vision to "empower, explore and excel together."

UH Wahine Softball Coach Gears Up for Next Season

Bob Coolen has been the winningest University of Hawaii Wahine softball coach for 28 years. He's grateful for the camaraderie of his players and support of their families, and invites everyone to come out to their games (free admission!). The regular softball season runs from February to May.

Maintaining Parks and Winning Games

Michael "Shag" Hermosura's day job is maintaining Kapiolani Park and surrounding parks and recreation areas and making sure they're beautiful and in good working condition for the public. His other job is coaching the Campbell High School Sabers softball team — he's already led them to three Hawaii state championships in a row. He appreciates that HGEA is always there for members when they need help.

“I know the value of my union”

Reggie Torres knows how important being in a union is and the workplace protections it provides. The educational assistant and wrestling and judo coach at Kahuku High School talks about the major differences between his former non-union position as head football coach and his union position running the school's In School Suspension and lockout programs.

Managing Kauai County’s Information Highway

Information technology specialist Amanda Swanson manages the County of Kauai's website and information systems and is actively involved in HGEA and our many union activities and events. She's also a tough roller derby player.

Life-changing Experience for School Security Attendant

Kawika Chung enjoys his job as a school security attendant at Kaimuki High School — and he understands the value of having a contract and a union to represent him and negotiate on his behalf.

HGEA Members on Molokai: Small Community, Big Challenges

It's not called the Friendly Island for nothing. Members like registered nurse Louise "Lulu" Linker and tax clerk Arlene Keanini find that living and working on Molokai has its challenges, but residents come together to help each other and the community with limited resources and services.

Maui’s New Bookmobile Brings the Library to the Community

As the librarian for Maui's only Bookmobile, Jessica Gleason has her dream job, bringing library resources to places without library access, including community centers, nursing homes, correctional facilities and schools.

Union Member Wears Many Hats

  Duke Nakamatsu, a commission support clerk for County of Kauai's Department of Planning, is a very active HGEA member and longtime steward. He values the benefits of his county job, such as 40-hour work weeks, weekends off and vacation leave, that allow him to pursue his many other interests and endeavors.

Keeping Hawaii Safe in War Against Invasive Species

  As part of the Plant Quarantine Branch with the state Department of Agriculture, Catherine Davenport, a plant quarantine inspector on Maui, is in the first line of defense to keep invasive pests out of our islands. But she says it's a collaborative effort and that the public is our most valuable resource for protecting the islands.

Forty Years of Dedicated Public Service

  Thank you to Carol Ann Kaneshiro, who retired in August 2016 after 40 years of working in the Hawaii State Public Library System. We appreciate her dedicated service and wish her a well-deserved retirement.

Deputy Sheriffs: Enforcing the Law, Protecting the Public

  Collectively, Gary Macarayan, Colin Kalama-Malani and Winston Chun have more than 90 years of diverse experience as deputy sheriffs in Hawaii's Department of Public Safety. They have been part of the challenges and achievements of the state's law enforcement organization and want people to understand the meaningful service they provide as law enforcement officers.

Principal Ignites Passion in Middle School Students

  Principal Michael Harano is making a positive impact and encouraging many young minds at Washington Middle School. With the support and guidance of his faculty and staff through academics and extracurricular activities, he has helped students become passionate about learning and led the award-winning school to achieve academic success.

Community Partnernships Support Lanai’s Sole Public Health Nurse

  Linda Mau is well-known among residents as the only full-time public health nurse on Lanai. She keeps a full schedule caring for individuals from every demographic on the island, from prenatal and well-baby care and student immunizations to TB testing, home health care and elder case management.