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Watch: Council member Elle Cochran announces bid for Maui County Mayor

PC: County of Maui, Office of Elle Cochran

Councilmember Elle Cochran (West Maui) revealed in public statements made at an event on Oahu that she intends on running for Mayor of Maui County in 2018.

Cochran was speaking as part of a panel organized by The People’s Congress. According to its website, The Hawai‘i People’s Congress is gathering community leaders, organizations, and movements from across Hawai‘i who want to work together to build a more just, fair and healthy future.

MAUIWatch reached out to Councilmember Cochran and asked her:

1) Why make the announcement so early? What prompted a quick intent to run after this election?

A. “ I’ve been talking about running for Mayor for quite a while now within my inner network. Today, at the People’s Congress, the moment felt right to share the news publicly with such an inspiring gathering of so many of our State’s progressive community leaders. The determination to create real political change, all across our State is growing in its momentum and strength. I want to continue to help foster that change and it starts with doing things differently than has always been done.”

2) What’s the primary reason you want to run for Mayor?

A: “My experience helping to manage a County budget of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars every year, has made me realize that money is not our issue. It is how we prioritize that money that is the problem. We have enough money to build the housing that we need for this community and to give proper consideration to our homelessness issues. There is no reason why everyone in our community shouldn’t have a roof over their heads. We need to re-prioritize to meet our community’s needs and boost morale for the employees who work hard for our county. I want county workers to feel proud of what they do again, recognized in their efforts; I want them to feel heard and appreciated. Something is seriously lacking right now. I hope to have the chance to try and change that. I also want to change the way that information is shared, both between the department and the Council, as well as between County and the public. I won’t stifle communication. I want complete transparency and collaboration. We all work better and accomplish so much more – together.”

3) Some of the challenges you think you will face?

A: “People had questions about who I was when I first ran for Council office. They wanted to know why I felt like I was qualified to run without having experience in the job. I may run into those same sentiments as a candidate for Mayor. There is no “How-To” manual for Council office or for the office of the Mayor, but I think that the votes show that people trust my decision-making ability and have confidence and trust that I will conduct myself fairly and not only listen to concerns but address them and take corrective action.”   

4) Your thoughts on the council re-org in the 2017 term?

A: “I am extremely disappointed. I was very open with the current Chair about wanting to see things done differently moving forward.

I am sickened by the “snatch and grab” mentality of the majority every term, while they dictate how things will be to the remaining minority four members.

Council members are equal voices for the community. There should be more respect for that fact and for each other as peers. I relayed that sentiment to the Chair and while I received nods of agreement – no changes were made. Everything had already been decided even in that very moment, which was made clear to me when I read it with everyone else in the paper the very next day. I have really lost respect (for the current leadership). There is this “every person for himself” mentality when it comes to reorganizing and I don’t care for it. It is not conducive to teamwork or team building and it’s definitely not a good way to start relationships off for a new term. I wouldn’t call it a “smooth transition”, but in the long run and grand scheme of things, I have a job to do and I plan to continue to do it effectively and efficiently for the people of Maui County. My job steadfastly remains my focus.”

When Cochran takes office for the new council term in 2017, it will be her last. Council members have term “pauses” rather than a hard limit. The current years call for five consecutive council terms  or a total of ten years. However, once they “pause” for one term (two years), they are able to return and run again. The term count then resets and council members can start a five term sequence again (if elected).

In this past election, Cochran was the top vote getter on the Council with 31,970, followed by Don Guzman with 30,764. Despite the appetite for change across the entire council, the new majority known as the “Ohana Coalition” was not a winner in the reorganization. It ran an opposition slate for all nine seats and endorsed Guzman for re-election. However in the council reorganization after the election, Guzman was ousted as Vice-Chair leaving constituents close to the movement crying foul. Candidates endorsed by that Coalition included Kelly King (South Maui) who beat incumbent Don Couch and brought Alika Atay, with 11th-hour victory over Dain Kane for the open Wailuku seat.

Video of her announcement- CLICK HERE.

*Susan Halas contributed to this story.

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About Neldon "AZD" Mamuad

Neldon "AZD" Mamuad is a pioneering social media entrepreneur who created MAUIWatch to solve the problem of breaking news on Maui. He has a 10-year pedigree running successful broadcast properties on Maui. He created KJMD-FM (Da Jam 98.3) in 2002 and hosted the widely popular "Big Phat Morning Show". Neldon is a local politco, event technologist, and involved with various community organizations. He was formerly Chairman of the Maui County Liquor Control Commission in 2014.

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