Our Islands, Our Future

Continuing our series on newly appointed County Department Directors, reflecting the role of government in responding to community values and needs.

The Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns provides island residents with assistance in all stages of their lives, says Director Jo-Ann Ridao. “I often refer to my department’s operations as being from the womb to the tomb,” she said. That’s because the department has seven divisions, covering housing, early childhood, immigration services, grants management, the county’s Volunteer Center, Kaunoa Senior Center and the Office on Aging. “My philosophy is to address the needs of a broad range of our community members. An important aspect of my role is to mentor my division heads and facilitate the great work they do,” Ridao said. “I’m the kind of person who enjoys being a mentor.” For Ridao, her department’s priorities are to address the community’s needs for food, shelter and safety.

As budget constraints and limited funding resources present an increasing challenge, the government will need to develop more partnerships and new ways to address human needs, says Ridao. Part of the solution, she believes, is engaging all segments of the Maui Nui community — from unions to churches to businesses — to support the mission of Housing and Human Concerns. “We need to build even further on our tradition of aloha, caring for each other in our community, and volunteerism.” Continuing to provide affordable housing is another community priority close to Ridao’s heart.

A former director for Lokahi Pacific, an independent, private non-profit housing and community development organization based in Wailuku, Ridao has extensive experience in addressing human needs and concerns, and among her accomplishments is selection as a participant in nonprofit management program at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She was born at the Maluhia Hospital in Wailuku and graduated from St. Anthony High School. The rewards of her job are plentiful, she said. “To see immigrants relieved because their paperwork is in good shape seniors getting the support they need and the new first-time homebuyer who moves in to their their home, all of that is wonderful to see.”