Saluting Hotel Housekeepers

One of my favorite leadership maxims is there is no “I” in TEAM. I graduated from a school where two athletic icons, Father Kenneth Bray and Edward Hamada, preached a “One Team” credo in all of our pursuits. As such, I’ve always had a healthy respect for programs and activities that bring out the best in us through a collective approach that stresses a “we’re all in this together” philosophy, coupled with an emphasis on always looking to contribute toward the greater good. Here are two – out of the hundreds out there – doing a tremendous job of pursuing such noble goals.


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Matthew Beattie-Callahan | Photo courtesy Matthew Beattie-Callahan

International Executive Housekeepers Association. There are many responsible for the success of our tourism economy. Some are visible; others toil in anonymity and could be described as the unsung heroes of our state’s No. 1 industry. These would be the blue-collar employees: bellmen and valets, cooks and bartenders, waiters and waitresses, front office personnel, lifeguards, maintenance and grounds crews, and, of course, housekeepers.

During the past 45 years, the Hawaii chapter of the International Executive Housekeepers Association has been the professional organization that dedicates itself to ensuring that we appreciate and understand the important role that housekeepers play in keeping tourism vibrant and healthy. It offers its members a variety of options to grow personally and professionally, and many housekeepers credit IEHA with instilling in them a measure of pride in what they do for a living.

Thanks to IEHA, a week in September is set aside every year to commend and recognize the work of housekeeping professionals, especially at their hotel properties and places of employment. Rose Galera, Hawaii chapter president and a member of the national board of directors since 1980, said it best: “We celebrate and honor all in professional cleaning globally and in Hawaii who keep our local and built environment clean, safe and healthy.”

As the former head of Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, I’m very cognizant that housekeepers can be the difference in turning a first-time visitor to Hawaii into a repeat visitor. In 2010, Leticia Gamiao, a housekeeper at the Aqua Wave Waikiki Hotel, won a national award from the American Hotel and Lodging Association for being the outstanding lodging employee of the year for medium-sized properties in the United States. Besides being an exceptional employee, what made Leticia stand out was her penning personal “aloha notes” to every guest room that she serviced. Over the course of a year’s time, Leticia received over a hundred positive comments and cards from guests, with many of them requesting to stay on her floor. So, to the IEHA, Rose, Leticia and all their co-workers, mahalo for what you do every day to keep Hawaii “No Ka Oi” in travel and tourism.

Senate Page. Windward resident Matthew Beattie-Callahan completed a successful five-month semester as a Senate Page in Washington, D.C., an experience he described as “awesome and amazing.” The program originated in 1829, when U.S. Sen. Daniel Webster appointed the first page. Hawaii has been an active participant thanks to late Sen. Dan Inouye and retired Sen. Dan Akaka’s seniority. Last spring, Matthew was Inouye’s pick, and talented Maryknoll senior Gwendilyn Liu was Akaka’s choice. These 30 gifted pages from across the nation started their day at 6 a.m. by doing academic course work for four hours before they trudged off to work at the Capitol. They would get out from the Senate at 6 p.m. at the earliest, or oftentimes as late as midnight. Teamwork was an essential ingredient for all of them to embrace, given the demands on their schedule and the need to be at their best at all times. Callahan said the experience gave him and his peers a “treasured front-row seat to observe government in action,” in what some have called the most exclusive 100-member club in America.

Although there have been other pages from Hawaii, it seems that Callahan, to his credit, has blazed a new trail with the plethora of awards and recognition bestowed on him, to wit: elected by his peers as class president, selected as Democratic Floor Page (equivalent of a shift supervisor), and honored with the Page Program Leadership Award and Page Program Citizenship Award. No wonder “Potomac Fever” has smitten the Iolani senior by virtue of him taking full advantage of the benefits of this prestigious fellowship. In a trip report to Iolani head of school Timothy Cottrell, Matthew wrote, “The program made me realize that the men and women who lead America, who change America, are not just people we can aspire to be like; they are people we can be.” It’s not hard to imagine young Callahan one day being in that Senate position to appoint other talented Hawaii youths to undergo the incredible opportunity he was afforded as a Senate Page.

Speaking of Excellence …

Finally, here’s hoping that Heisman Trophy voters are not presuming that Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is a lock to win it for a second year in a row. Besides pining for Dave Shoji’s Rainbow Wahine to cop an NCAA volleyball national championship, I would love to witness Hawaii’s first Heisman winner in Oregon’s masterful QB Marcus Mariota, who is having an excellent year thus far leading the second-ranked team in the nation. I am sure Mariota, if queried, would say that a national championship would mean more than an individual award.

But in his case, why not both? The 808 came close last year with star Punahou alum Manti Te’o. Let’s hope it happens this year for Saint Louis grad Mariota, one of the nicest, most humble guys around. Go Ducks!