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The Honolulu Advertiser

Advertiser Staff

Posted on: Friday, February 5, 2010

Recalling city's 'best mayor'

 • Aloha, mayor
Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Frank Fasi waves from a new bus in his first term as Honolulu mayor. Former city officials friends and rivals alike say Fasi was one of a kind.


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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Honolulu mayoral candidates Frank Fasi, Mufi Hannemann and Duke Bainum debated at the Hawaii Theatre during the last political campaign for Fasi, who sat on the third floor at Honolulu Hale for six terms beginning in 1968.


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As news of Frank Fasi's passing spread yesterday, lunchrooms, cell phone lines and Internet message boards buzzed with Honolulu residents famous and not-so-famous sharing their personal recollections of the city's iconic former mayor.

On a Honolulu Advertiser message board, readers lauded Fasi's combative style, his dogged political will and his knack for getting things done. They also shared stories of the softer side that Fasi shared with everyday residents, from his patronage of neighborhood lemonade stands to his anonymously picking up the bill for strangers he befriended at local restaurants.

Here is a small sampling of the recollections residents have of the former mayor:

• "Once we were at a forum and this was during the '94 campaign. People tried to make something out of Fasi's age and he was a little sensitive about that," said former governor and occasional political rival Ben Cayetano.

"He challenged me to a push-up contest in front of everybody. The guy was like Jack LaLanne. And I wasn't about to let him show me up because I wasn't in the best shape, so I just joked my way out of it."

• "Myself and a friend of mine did some canvassing for him in the early '70s and soon thereafter I enlisted in the Army. When I was stationed overseas (Korea) and in the states, he and his family always sent a Christmas card," wrote Malcolm C. McFarland on honoluluadvertiser.com. "A great man and a great human being."

• Joe Magaldi, a longtime friend and former head of the city Department of Transportation Services, said Frank Fasi once called him up while driving and told him he was stuck in traffic.

The mayor said traffic was being backed up by cars making a left turn from Kapi'iolani Boulevard onto Ward Avenue. He wanted the bottleneck fixed and wanted it done by 2 p.m. It was 11 a.m. at the time.

Magaldi had a no-left-turn sign posted by noon in a policy that still stands today.

"He trusted you," Magaldi said. "That's what I liked about him. He wasn't somebody who was on your shoulder every five minutes."

• "I was an Advertiser newsboy stationed at the corner of Nu'uanu and School streets on weekends. Frank F. Fasi always bought a paper from me dressed in a dark suit and his jet black hair combed back. Told me to work fast, watch the light at the intersection and watch the traffic," wrote Wayne Hinano Brumaghim on www.honoluluadvertiser.com.

"In those days, adults did not talk to kids very much, but he did."

• Said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann: "Frank Fasi didn't always do what was necessarily popular. He did what he felt was right. He did what was best to champion the little guy."

• Former Gov. George Ariyoshi, Fasi's adversary in three of his attempts at becoming governor and with the Kukui Plaza case occurring on his watch remembered numerous caustic encounters with Fasi.

And then, once both were out of office, hostilities ceased, Ariyoshi said. He recalled a dinner following a charity golf tournament in which he was seated opposite Fasi. The former mayor promptly rose and walked away. Ariyoshi assumed it was in protest, but Fasi returned with a plate of sushi and placed it before his former foe.

"I was touched by this," Ariyoshi said. "It was as though there is respect among politicians ... we were political enemies, but it's all behind us now, and he wanted to let me know."

• "Frank was one of the most interesting individuals I have ever met," said Honolulu businessman, former state lawmaker and former Fasi aide D.G. "Andy" Anderson. "I was his campaign manager for his last three mayoral elections, worked with him for two years around the clock as his managing director, and I'm still not sure I really knew him totally.

"What I do know is, he was one of a kind. He believed in serving the people of Honolulu as no one else has, and don't think anyone else ever will. He worked tirelessly to make Honolulu a city we could all be proud of. Many people didn't like Frank Fasi, but at the same time respected him very much."

• More from Cayetano: "I thought he was a good mayor and probably the best mayor we ever had."

• Former Fasi executive assistant Linda Wong said that after Fasi was defeated in 1980 and Eileen Anderson was elected mayor, "At the unveiling of Frank's portrait at city hall, people burst out laughing because he had substituted a picture of himself with his eyes crossed. He did have a great sense of humor and will truly be missed."

• "I worked for five mayors. He was the best, no question," Magaldi said.