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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 19 of 21)

Photo: David Croxford


Senior VP for government affairs, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii

Sherry Menor-McNamara’s mission statement is clear: “My goal is to build a better business climate and improve the quality of life within our state,” she says.

That vision, combined with her empathic nature and impressive credentials – from a B.A. at UCLA to a combined J.D./MBA from UH-Manoa in 2005 to an executive education program at Harvard in 2010 – has gained her the respect of business and government leaders.

“Everything she does helps,” says Mayor Billy Kenoi of Hawaii County. “Sherry is able to walk the line between taking a tough position and making everyone feel respected. There is an art to that and Sherry has been able to thread that needle.”

Menor-McNamara credits her mother for inspiration. “My mom is my all-time role model,” she says, referring to a woman who started a successful travel agency on Hawaii Island while learning English and raising three children. “Seeing her accomplish so many milestones reminds me that nothing is too hard.”

Menor-McNamara’s professional posts have taken her all over the world. In Los Angeles, she worked in media and entertainment, in Washington, she interned for the president’s executive office, in New York she worked at Estée Lauder, and in Tokyo she handled sports events for Sony. It was a rewarding time, but in 2000 she knew it was time to come home.

For the chamber, her role is shifting from playing defense at the state Capitol – trying to block legislation that hurts businesses – to being more proactive, such as getting business owners involved in the legislative process. She is also a passionate advocate for the chamber’s projects, especially that of creating an economic strategy for the next decade. “Our goal is to build a more sustainable economy for our state,” she says.

— TZ

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