Carol Ai May & Mike May

Executive Mergers

December, 2002

Carol Ai May and husband, Mike, make a grand production out of every dinner they eat together at home. They spread a tablecloth, light candles and use cloth napkins and silverware – even if they’re only eating chow mein from a Chinese takeout menu. “Dinner has become so sacred for us because that’s when we can decompress and catch up on what everyone is doing,” Carol says, about her husband and 15-year-old son, Evan, who plays sports for Iolani School. “Sometimes I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7, then we have to have dinner on top of that – the crockpot is our best friend in the kitchen!” she says.

Mike is president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc., the No. 1 company on the 2002 Hawaii Business Top 250 list. She is vice president and secretary for City Mill Co. Ltd., a family-owned company that ranks No. 141 on the list.

They also serve as co-chairs of the Aloha United Way fund-drive, a responsibility akin to pulling teeth at times. “We have one of the most expensive election years in the history of the state, on the heels of Sept. 11,” Mike says, about the challenges of heading a nonprofit organization. “As we approached the campaign, we decided to take a unique approach and build a team of husbands, wives and children,” Mike says.

The result: the Aloha United Way slogan, “From Our Ohana to Yours” and a high-energy group comprised of family-oriented volunteers. “It’s a labor of love, and there’s a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of our team,” Mike says.

Dedication and hard work is how Mike and Carol tackle their priorities – as a team, as a family, as executives and as individuals. They do not bring work-related problems to the home. “Her retail experience is so different from my utility experience, and when we talk about work, there tends to be a lot of uniqueness to it,” Mike says. “I learn about retailing from her, and she learns about what I have to deal with – it’s not like work, it’s more like sharing.”

On weekends, she cycles with girlfriends, while he plays golf. The couple has traveled to New Zealand and Europe, since their October 2000 wedding. Together, they have four children, ages 15 to 23, from previous marriages. Carol promised Mike she would take golf lessons. He promised her that he would learn how to ballroom dance. “She would not make a better golfer than I would make a better dancer,” Mike jokes. “But we took about eight dancing lessons. That’s all her feet could stand.” A hobby they could resume after they retire, perhaps.

It’s that kind of humor and balance of priorities that allows Mike and Carol to succeed in the office and at home. “Mike is a very good, strategic thinker, and I’m a very good executer and planner,” Carol says. “But we see the world through the same set of eyes. We have a complete mutual love, respect and trust for each other.”

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Cathy S. Cruz