Stephany Vaioleti

Deputy Director

“We need to do things differently and better in order for everyone to thrive.”

Every evening when Stephany Nihipali Vaioleti drives home from work in Honolulu, her favorite part of the commute is when she comes out of the Likelike Tunnel and sees the unparalleled view greeting her on the Windward side. “It just brings me a sense of calm,” she says, “because this is home.”

The lifelong Ko’olauloa resident considered leaving this behind in 2020 for more financial opportunities on the continent. “Your dollar can go further elsewhere,” she explains. “Every resident struggles with Hawaiʻi’s cost of living. I have friends and family who have unwillingly left and others questioning moving away, even my eldest daughter.”  Vaioleti’s 25-year-old daughter, Kia, is a full-time project manager at a downtown architecture firm, yet lives at home to make ends meet, and is struggling to save up for a downpayment on a house. So far, mother and daughter have both chosen to stick it out in Hawai`i and “figure it out like everybody else.”

Vaioleti stays it is because she loves it here. Her entire life’s been on Oʻahu: a high school diploma from Kamehameha Schools, and three degrees from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa (bachelors, masters, and juris doctor.) Her family is here. Her heart is here. Vaioleti shares, “My roots go way back and this is home.”

Outside of her personal ties and her ingrained sense of kuleana, or responsibility, to take care of the  ʻāina and the makaʻāinana – the land and the people on it – Vaioleti has another reason for fighting for affordability for all.  At her most recent job as Hawaiʻi Energy’s community engagement navigator, Vaioleti founded the energy equity hui, a statewide government-nongovernment collaborative, working to ensure equitable transformation in our quest to meet our 2045 clean energy goals.   She cites the 20 huge, white windmills in Kahuku – “we need to do things differently and better in order for everyone to thrive.”