Kūhea Paracuelles

Kūhea Paracuelles
Office of the Mayor, County of Maui
Environmental Coordinator
High School Attended
Leilehua High, Wahiawa, Hawaiʻi
College Attended
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa


Job Description:

My main responsibilities are to carry out the Mayor’s environmental priorities and initiatives (Invasive species, watershed protection, marine/nearshore waters protection, anti-littering/marine debris, renewable energy) represent her at meetings and on various committees, and respond to environmental concerns and complaints. As a member of the Mayor’s staff, I also respond in emergency situations and provide support where needed (i.e. Civil Defense).

Interest in Field:

I never thought about entering the political arena before I was actually presented with the opportunity. I suppose that was due to having had limited interaction with political processes in the past. When I was offered this job, though, I considered what a unique opportunity this was to contribute to the advancement of conservation efforts within Mauʻi Nui in a different way and decided that it would be a good thing to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

How did you get there?

Earning a college degree was no doubt the key to getting my foot in the door. I was also fortunate to have learned the importance of networking very early on in my career, which has been a major key to my professional success. My career really began with volunteering for several organizations, which allowed me to gain valuable experience and knowledge, as well as to meet people at all levels and facets of conservation. As a former environmental educator, the nature of the work allowed me to meet people across the island chain who then led me to additional opportunities.

Necessary Qualifications:

One of the most important qualifications to possess in my job is the ability to communicate effectively, in both writing and speaking. As an employee with the YMCA of Honolulu during my college years, this was the single-most important thing I was taught as a Group Leader. I also learned the importance of following through on promises made and being prepared for all situations. In Hawai‘i, it seems like we have a lot of unspoken rules of conduct in terms of how we treat each other. We know that it’s important to show respect for one another, regardless of status or race, and that we support each other in good and bad times. Island living demands this of us and as a County Official, these unwritten expectations help keep my focus on serving our Maui County communities as best as I can. I’ve strived to maintain and improve these qualities throughout my career because they are critical to making a positive impact no matter what profession I enter into, and they can often make the difference in impacting other people’s lives in a positive way.

Rewards of Work:

I gain a lot of satisfaction from helping people, whether it’s providing information, supporting important causes, and learning more about County government and all of its inner workings.

Relevant Work Experience:

  • Intern, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (O‘ahu)
  • Teacher Consultant, The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i (O‘ahu)
  • Environmental Educator, ‘Imi Pono no ka ‘Āina (Hawai‘i Island)
  • Outreach Specialist, Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission
  • Volunteer, Sierra Club High School Hikers Program, Midway Atoll, Kaho‘olawe - Island Reserve, and many more

Typical Day:

No such thing! No two days are alike. I spend many hours per week attending meetings, responding to phone calls and e-mails, reading reports, and coordinating meetings between County officials, community organizations, and citizens.

Words of Wisdom :

You wish you knew...:

That your current job is not necessarily your last job, to think of each opportunity (paid or volunteer) as an important stepping stone to where you’re supposed to be heading next. It’s not the end of the world if your job is not working out the way you expected, but remember to take the lessons you’ve learned and apply it to your next step. Keep working to improving yourself and stay positive.

You wish you were told...:

I was one of the lucky ones to meet the right people at the right time who influenced my life choices for the better. More than 20 years later, all of these people are still in my life and in my circle of influence! If I had to give advice to anyone who is at the start of their career, I would say to choose your mentors wisely. Choose those who have a positive outlook, work hard, see their work as their life’s work as opposed to a job, and always keep their word. Do your homework by learning as much as you can about the field you want to enter, but don’t do it through a narrow tunnel…Learn to see the broad picture and how other related careers interrelate with yours, here in Hawai‘i and around the world.

Final Comments / Advice:

I find most people in environmental careers very passionate about their work, which is one of the nicest things about working in this field. Be very careful, though, to maintain balance between your career and your personal life, because both are important, and you stand to lose one or both if you don’t know how to manage them properly. Also, we “environmental people” sometimes get so caught up in our passions about the environment that we forget how to speak to, relate to, or tolerate those who don’t work in this field. We have our own language, it seems, that is full of acronyms and scientific names, and we talk about places that no one’s even heard of. Remember to be compassionate towards non-environmental people and understand that they simply need to be educated about the issues as you once did.