Kelly’s involvement in Maui community started when she and her baby daughter joined the Kihei Neighborhood Playgroup, a free county program run by volunteers providing a venue for parents and their 1-5 years olds to interact, When the director of the program left the island, Kelly stepped in to run the Playgroup and enhanced it by bringing in guest speakers and using donations to purchase toys and toddler playground equipment.
She continued contributing throughout her parenthood, getting more involved as she saw the need. The year before her daughter started kindergarten at Kihei School, Kelly was dismayed to learn that enrollment was up to 2000 students and all grade levels shared the same play space. She worked with the school PTA and developers to get donations and do groundwork for a separate area with playground equipment for the youngest students at Kihei school.
As her children grew, Kelly became more immersed in the needs of Maui’s older keiki, she and her husband moved to Kula for 4 years seeking a smaller school environment as the efforts for a second elementary school in South Maui moved at a slow pace. Seeing the need for more activities for young girls in Kula School, Kelly started a Girl Scout Troop to help empower young women and her first year received a newly created “Rookie of the Year” award from the Maui Girl Scout administration.
After her BOE term Kelly tried to take time off from being so active in the community; however, Hui Malama Learning Center called her back to service. After visiting HMLC facilities and falling in love with their mission of literacy and helping at-risk students, Kelly joined the Board of Directors at a time when the agency was dangerously in debt. As an officer of the board, Kelly helped direct HMLC to a healthy financial state and continued on through the hiring of 3 executive directors.
Kelly and her husband, Bob King, were owner/operators of King Diesel, a Maui engine repair and maintenance business with a stellar reputation that hired three local mechanics straight out of Maui High School which has an excellent mechanic program. In 2005 they won a Small Business Administration award for Small Businesspersons of the Year!
The success of King Diesel led to the couple starting a new business called Pacific Biodiesel, focused on fuel production. Bob and Kelly put all their life savings into this new venture which began as a recycling project to divert used cooking oil from Maui’s landfills and turn it into a clean, renewable displacement for petroleum diesel. Kelly expanded her involvement to environmental issues and joined the company full time in the early 2000s. The focus was on island sustainability and self-sufficiency – about surviving and thriving rather than just recycling. The company has grown to 70+ employees on three islands, and still serves the original mission written by Kelly: to promote a clean, sustainable future through the community-based production of renewable fuels.
With the proposal by outside interests to import palm oil from deforested land in Indonesia to make biodiesel in Maui, many realized that not all biodiesel is created equally. That led Kelly to work with biodiesel advocates Willie and Annie Nelson, Woody and Laura Harrelson, and Daryl Hannah to create the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance which is now a national non-profit that supports sustainably produced biodiesel.
This organization developed a Sustainability Certification Program that was recently pilotedby Pacific Biodiesel’s own Big Island Biodiesel. Kelly continues to advocate for local sustainable clean energy through her involvement with the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum, Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance and the UH Maui College Sustainable Sciences Management Program Advisory Committee. She is a valued speaker at leadership and energy conferences and workshops throughout the state and even nationally as Pacific Biodiesel has become a model of community-based renewable energy production
Kelly’s involvement in local, state and national issues eventually brought her to focus on Maui County’s needs as she believes that local values are embedded in our non-profit organizations, our community plans, our agricultural lands and our ocean reefs - which sorely need protecting.
Through these shared values we can find a way to encourage and incorporate smart growth and not have to choose between Pono and Prosperity. Kelly’s success as a community collaborator has always been about bringing folks together to recognize shared values and work toward common goals. Pono Prosperity is more than just a campaign slogan – it is the guideline for Pacific Biodiesel’s success. This is why so many friends, colleagues and supporters have urged her to run for the South Maui Council seat.
With a long history of learning the issues in Maui County and finding solutions, Kelly has the experience and leadership skills we need in a Council member. She is results oriented and will serve us well!