Landscape architect and planner Chris Hart, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2010 and formerly headed two Maui County departments, died early Monday. He was 71.
Hart, a Wailuku resident, had gone to Oahu to undergo preventative surgery to his aorta at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center and Clinic, but he subsequently suffered several strokes that led to his death, according to Jordan Hart, the youngest of his four sons.
Jordan Hart said his father's passing was "definitely not expected" by family members.
Funeral arrangements were pending Monday.
"He was a very kind and generous and thoughtful person," Jordan Hart said.
Hart is survived by his wife, Maria. His other three sons are Matthew, Jon and Andrew. He also leaves four grandchildren.
Maria Hart said she married her husband about a year and a half ago.
"I always call him 'my heart,'" she said. "He's very sweet. He's a very caring man."
Hart's younger sister, Connie Hart of Florida, said that the family was not prepared for his death.
"Chris was a truly great man," she said. "He was a friend to everyone. He was an inspiration, but more importantly he was a father that loved his children.
"He was very, very committed to Maui now and Maui in the future," she said. "He loved this island. He loved being here and loved being part of the community. He fought hard for many, many years to preserve the beauty of the island. He was a wonderful brother. He was an inspiration. He will be missed terribly."
Mayor Alan Arakawa said that he worked with Hart in planning communities back to the late 1980s.
"Chris has always been very, very thoughtful. He was looking out for the betterment of the community," Arakawa said, adding that Hart left his fingerprints on community planning on Maui for decades.
"He was a really nice guy. We're really going to miss him," he said.
Maui County Council Member Gladys Baisa, incoming council chairwoman and current chairwoman of the council's General Plan Committee, said that she had known Hart for "many, many years."
She said her big regret was that Hart had not recovered from surgery on Oahu when the council's General Plan Committee recommended passage recently of the Maui Island Plan, which Hart had worked on "since the very beginning."
"He never had the satisfaction to know it passed," she said. "He was a real gentleman during the whole process."
Even when council members would tweak the plan, Hart wouldn't complain, Baisa said. "He was really a sport during the whole time."
Hart was born May 3, 1941, in upstate New York. He received a bachelor's of landscape architecture degree from Syracuse University in 1964. He worked as a landscape architect and in land use planning in White Plains and Bear Mountain, N.Y., before he was drafted into the Army, serving both stateside and in combat in Vietnam.
He joined the Maui County Department of Planning in 1970, where he served until 1984, rising from a staff planner to deputy planning director in 1980. In March 1980, he was involved with the establishment of the Maui County Urban Design Review Board and with the administration of urban design standards and the Maui Historic Commission.
From 1984 to 1986, Hart was director of the county Department of Human Concerns, where he helped develop affordable housing and oversaw the expansion of the Kaunoa Senior Center.
Then, from 1986 to 1991, he was director of the Department of Planning, overseeing the update of the 1990 General Plan, formulation of the Wailuku redevelopment plan update, country-town design guidelines for the Paia-Haiku region and the establishment of the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission.
After being self-employed for two years as a landscape architect, Hart founded Chris Hart & Partners Inc. in Wailuku. He was president of the company.
In 2010, Hart was among 11 candidates to run for the Mayor's Office, but he did not advance beyond the primary election.
For a while, Hart had a business venture, Dad's Donut Shop, in Wailuku. His community involvement included service with the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, the Maui Historical Society, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, the Teen Challenge Substance Abuse Treatment Program, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, youth soccer programs and the Rotary Club of Maui.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.