Family, Friends Mourn Loss of Danny Mateo, Longtime Maui Councilmember and Former County Clerk
Longtime Maui County Councilmember from Molokaʻi and recently retired County Clerk, Danny Mateo, passed away on Tuesday in the company of family members, Maui Now has confirmed.
“Words cannot explain, but we want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, which are very much appreciated,” said Mateo’s sister, Ludy Garcia who called Mateo’s passing a “shock” and “unexpected.”
Mateo, 68, just celebrated his birthday on August 21.
He passed last night in the company of his wife Clarissa “Poni” Mateo. “She was by his side,” said Garcia via phone this morning. He also had a chance to Facetime with one of his daughter’s who resides in Las Vegas, “and the family all said goodbye to dad… They also sang a song in Hawaiian that they all knew,” said Garcia.
Mateo served for 10 consecutive years on the Maui County Council before reaching his term limit in 2012. He then served as an executive assistant to Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa. He was appointed County Clerk in December of 2013 and served in that capacity until his retirement at the end of 2018.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of former County Council Chairman Danny Mateo,” said Maui Mayor Michael Victorino in a statement today.
“Mr. Mateo was a consummate professional and a lifelong public servant. Joycelyn and I pray the Mateo family will find comfort even as we grieve his loss during this difficult time. Danny will be missed and remembered for his service to the people of Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Maui.”
Mayor Victorino explained that Mateo was a longtime aide to the late Council Chair Pat Kawano. “He succeeded Mr. Kawano, serving as the Molokaʻi member of the County Council and as council chair.”
According to information compiled by the county, Mateo was a son of a sakada, the group of Filipino immigrants who came over to work in the plantation, from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. “He was raised in Pāʻia, lived on the island of Hawaiʻi, then moved to Molokaʻi where he operated a company that rented cars and mules for the Kalaupapa trail ride,” according to county files.
Since that time, he dedicated many years to working as a public servant.
“Just how people like to travel, he loved to work and make a difference. He kept up with everybody even through he was retired,” said Garcia.
Former Mayor Arakawa served on the Maui County Council with Mateo for four years and said he later hired Mateo as one of his Executive Assistants because “Danny was always looking out for the community.”
“He was an advocate for Molokai for the longest time, even before becoming a council member,” Arakawa said. “Very outspoken but also a very nice guy. He was well versed in county knowledge and a great public servant.
I’m very sad at his passing and wish the best for his family.”
Five months ago, Mateo suffered cardiac arrest while on vacation in Las Vegas. Following his recovery, he expressed his gratitude to first responders during a visit with Clark County firefighters who came to his aid.
Family members say Mateo had plans to return to Las Vegas on Oct. 15 for a doctor’s visit. He liked the doctors there, according to Garcia, and had plans to move there around April.
Longtime co-worker and friend, Gladys Baisa responded to our request for comment saying, “I knew Danny as a baby. One of his sisters is my age. My family and their’s lived in Pāʻia in the early 40’s.” Baisa said her family moved to Makawao in 1946, and although they kept in touch, they were “not that close,” at the time. “Serendipitously, when I moved to Makawao Ranch Acres in the late seventies we became very close neighbors again celebrating our family events and our lives,” she said.
“I worked with Danny on the Council. He was a strong leader and had definite positions on issues. Sometimes we differed but we were always respectful of each other. When I became Council Chair we had an opening for County Clerk and I nominated Danny because I knew he would be a great Clerk, and he was, until retiring late last year,” said Baisa.
“He became Clerk the year of the historic GMO legislation and handled that entire challenging process professionally. I asked him to be Council’s State Legislative Lobbying Person and he did a fabulous job. He was a great public Servant. I will miss him and send my aloha to his beloved wife and entire ʻohana at this very difficult time,” said Baisa.
After retirement, Mateo immersed himself in the hobby of growing and potting succulents. “He had the greatest collection,” said Garcia. “He’d go to garage sales and buy ceramic kettles, cups and saucers, and put holes in them… and then plant succulents in them,” said Garcia who was excited to have purchased a new container from the Maui Swap Meet for her brother.
“We were very compatible,” said Garcia, noting that the two would take care of each other’s plants when the other was traveling.
“He was sharp as could be with his mouth. He wouldn’t hold back. Of course he would say it nicely, and take a bad or ugly situation and turn it into something you could joke and think about,” said Garcia.
“It’s his time. We didn’t debate it. It’s God’s time, not ours. He had lots of faith and he’s in a better place and not suffering,” said Garcia.
Mateo is survived by his wife Clarissa, son Dennis, daughters Heidi and Noralyn as well as multiple grandchildren.