Maui Economic Opportunity Chief Executive Officer Debbie Cabebe was honored
as one of 27 Most Admired Leaders in Hawai‘i in 2023 by Pacific Business
News at a gathering in Waikiki on Nov. 9.
The award recognizes exceptional executives who have made significant
contributions in their companies and their communities, according to
Pacific Business News. This year’s 27 honorees span a range of industries
from nonprofits and education to health care and real estate. Maui
nonprofit honorees included Debbie, Hale Mahaolu Executive Director Grant
Chun and Maui Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Director Lisa Paulson.
Debbie directs one of Maui County’s largest nonprofit organizations with a
$22 million annual budget in 2022, more than 200 employees on Maui,
Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, and more than 40 programs that help low-income
residents, persons with disabilities, kupuna, youth and other
disenfranchised members of the community.
Since the wildfires, MEO has been tabbed by the State of Hawaii as a
partner to run a program that supports displaced families with children
with rent, vehicle purchases, utility payments, clothing and school
supplies and a jobs program for displaced workers. MEO also has been
running a program providing 6 months of rent to displaced fire families,
funded by the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Debbie became CEO in April 2017, ascending through ranks in her 23-year
career with the Community Action Agency, part of a national network of
poverty fighting agencies. She began with MEO as Chief Human Resources
Officer in 2000 and became Chief Operating Officer in 2011.
She also serves on many boards and commissions, including the Hawai‘i
Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, the Friends of the Children’s Justice
Center, Association of Farmworkers Opportunity Program, Rocky Mountain HI,
Workforce Investment Board and Hawaii Community Action Directors
In writing a letter of support, MEO Board President Carol Reimann described
Debbie as a “highly respected leader with the innate ability to handle
challenging situations with grace and dignity.”
“Her integrity and leadership are a positive force in Maui’s nonprofit
world,” she said.
Carol, Board Vice President Bard Peterson and Treasurer Cliff Alakai flew
to Oahu to support Debbie at the event. Debbie’s husband, Raymond, also
Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura in her letter of support said that “Debbie
has been a force for low income residents, advocating for their needs,
offering assistance and championing their cause.”
She added that Debbie lives by the tagline on all her emails.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is triumph over it.”
For more information about MEO and its programs, call (808) 249-2990 or go
to the website www.meoinc.org.