Background
"In order to succeed in life, you need to be proud of every part of who you are."
My Story

Slide Setting the Stage I was born on the North Shore of Oʻahu at the Kahuku Medical Center. I was 16 days early and because my mother was so calm throughout her pregnancy, I was a surprise to everyone. At the time, my father was in law school at the University of Hawaiʻi and my mother was completing her degree to be a music teacher.

My family moved to Hawaiʻi Kai in East Oʻahu when I was very young. I learned to play the piano at four and learned how to read before Kindergarten. Our home was constantly filled with music from my mother’s piano lessons and choir practices. My father’s work ethic helped him become the first Samoan judge in the United States at the age of 37. His ability to pioneer new pathways inspired me and it set the stage for the meaningful things I hoped to accomplish with my life.

I attended Kamehameha Schools at Kapālama and became a song leader during my sophomore year. When I graduated at 17, I wanted to go to one college: BYU-Provo in Utah. Through hard work and determination, I received early acceptance to my #1 choice along with numerous scholarships to cover my education.
Slide Rising to the Challenge One of my first experiences at BYU-Provo was a lesson in humility. I had confidently applied to the university’s music program but wasn’t accepted on my first try. BYU was extremely competitive and I thought I was as talented and accomplished as anyone else - instead, I had much to learn. The second time around, I leveled up my competitiveness and was accepted into the program.

I was also very active in college and was chosen as the Women’s President, Polynesian Club President, and BYU Student Body Vice-President. One day, I received a very clear impression of a name: Matt Blackner. I didn’t know who he was but the next day a campaign manager for a student government candidate came to my house. He asked me to be a running mate and while I hadn’t planned on participating in student government, I agreed on the condition that his offer was for Matt Blackner. Coincidentally, this was the case, and thus began my first campaign journey.

Matt and I had a high-level campaigning team that ran like a well-oiled machine: We received campaign schedules every morning, we discussed branding, we prepared for debates, and we canvassed in the snow. We got through the primary race and were put against two very competitive journalism students in the general race. Despite the odds and challenges along every step of the way, we won the election. As BYU’s Student Body Vice-President, my knowledge of leadership grew exponentially, and I came to the realization that by rising to the challenge - whether in music or leadership - it made me a better person.
Slide Humbling Experiences A year before graduating from BYU, I felt a strong desire to serve a church mission. To my surprise, I was assigned to Venezuela in South America. I had little knowledge of the country and did not speak Spanish. Even so, I went forward with a desire to help improve the lives of othes.

From 2003-2004, I saw Venezuelans receive free housing, free education, and free health care from the government. In 2002, President Chávez had assumed power and while his socialist reforms seemed good, it disenfranchised people taking away their individual freedoms. I remained a silent observer even as social and political unrest grew in the country. I remained focused on my purpose to help others and in doing so I learned much about their culture, language, and way of life.

Before living abroad, I understood little about different political philosophies and the consequent influence governments have on individuals, communities, and nations as a whole. When I returned to Hawaiʻi, I felt a profound gratitude and humility for my basic freedoms to vote, to voice my opinions, and to support good people for office.
Slide Forging New Pathways I married my husband in 2006 as he was pursuing professional football in Utah, Texas, and then Michigan. We had both completed our undergraduate degrees and we both enjoyed our new careers. In 2007 our first daughter was born and the following year, while pregnant with our second daughter, we felt Hawaiʻi tugging at our heartstrings.

We moved to Waipio, Oʻahu in 2008. I had just started a master’s degree at the University of Hawaiʻi and was juggling teaching piano, raising our children, and supporting my husband with his new job. In 2010, after much reflection and prayer, we bought a house in West O’ahu. While we didn’t have any family or friend connections there, we felt a strong impression that it would be the best place to live and raise our daughters.

We fell in love with our new community. As 2012 approached, I began to notice some government policies being introduced that were similar to the ones in Venezuela. I felt concerned for my family and the future of Hawaiʻi. I thus decided to forge a new pathway into civic engagement by volunteering for a candidate I believed in. After the election, I did not want to lose momentum and I remained active by joining my local neighborhood board.
Slide Sensing a Shift As I became active in the community, I was approached many times to run for office. It seemed unthinkable because my two daughters were only toddlers and aside from full-time mom duties, I had few personal connections in the Westside community. I was also a political outsider with no financial backing and without a mentor or campaign manager. Yet, my strong desire to make a positive difference and a personal sense that my life needed to shift in this direction removed all doubt.

In 2013, I raised $10,00 to ensure a well-funded campaign for the 2014 race. By organizing my work into spreadsheets, I calculated specifics like how many votes I’d need to win each precinct and how many people I had to talk to in a day. Often, I’d feel overwhelmed knowing that in some areas, I might need 500 votes but I knew only a handful of people. These numbers were daunting but kept me accountable. For many months, I hit the streets at 3:00 pm and stayed out until dark. After each day, I’d put my canvassing notes and phone numbers into an ever-growing database of supporters. It began as a nearly insurmountable challenge but ended as a labor of love.

I planned the day of the election down to the minute: I knew what time I’d wake up and the kind of breakfast foods that would be in my volunteer’s brown paper bags. I had a vote goal on a piece of paper taped to the wall. When the polls closed, I said a prayer with my husband and headed down to be with supporters. That night, I won by 56% against an eight-year incumbent who was the majority floor leader. My motto of “People Before Politics” had resounded with the community and now it was time to go to work.

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