The award celebrates her role in creating a safe environment for company employees during the pandemic.
Jozette Montalvo’s first job was as a field hand on a farm growing romaine lettuce and cabbage.
“I grew up in Kula, Maui, which is on the slopes of Haleakala Crater,” she said. “I initially wanted to be a farmer, as I love plants, but I quickly realized after that first job just how physically demanding it was.”
Montalvo, Vice President of Human Resources for Hawaii Petroleum, is the 2020 winner of the Mike Garvey Award for Distinguished Service in Safety. The award celebrates her role in creating a safe environment for company employees during the pandemic.
“The age-old saying holds today more than ever: it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Montalvo graduated from Saint Anthony High School, along with her brother and sister. Her father was a Cable Splicing Supervisor for Hawaii Telephone Company, and her mother was a Park Ranger up at Haleakala National Park.
“I had a wonderful childhood,” she said. “Because my mother worked for the national park, I spent a lot of my childhood days hiking into Haleakala Crater and camping at Hosmer Grove. My parents worked very hard to pay for my private high school education, as well as college.
Montalvo said she was initially adamant about not going to college, but one day abruptly changed her mind.
“I told my parents I was going to get an associate degree in Secretarial Science at the local community college, then go to work. I did achieve that degree, but my parents then encouraged me to go off-island to Oahu to the University of Hawaii and pursue a four-year degree there.”
After “much prodding,” Montalvo decided to go and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Personnel & Industrial Relations. She returned to Maui; it took six months to land her first position as a temporary Industrial Relations Clerk at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S).
“I worked there for 25 years; my final position was Human Resources Manager. When I started with HC&S, which is a unionized company, there were about 1,600 employees,” she said. “When I left, it only had about 700 employees. With the sugar industry dying in Hawaii, the company was always at risk of closing and did finally close at the end of 2016.”
Montalvo moved on to Hawaii Petroleum, where she’s worked for 12 years. A few years ago, she went back to school and earned her master’s degree in Human Resource Management through the University of Hawaii cohort program.
“I was always interested in management but felt the field was too broad and not specialized enough. I chose Human Resources to narrow it down. I like the legal side of HR, and I’ve always said you have to be ‘part attorney.’”
‘Change is good’
Montalvo said she most enjoys helping employees one-on-one.
“I was impressed and felt so very blessed when I was hired to work here. Hawaii Petroleum is an amazing company with wonderful people and great leadership. I love the businesses we are in, the people, and the great team I work with. A favorite story about Hawaii Petroleum I have is participating in the Makawao Rodeo Parade, riding in the Minit Stop convertible with ‘Krispy’ the chicken, and passing out candy as clucking chicken music was blaring from a boom box in the car. The clucking chicken music was so hilarious, laughing the whole way and it was so well received by the crowd – lots of fun!”
She was nominated for the Safety Award by Hawaii Petroleum’s President, Kimo Haynes, for the work she did related to creating and enacting COVID-19 protocols when the pandemic broke out in 2020.
“The key was keeping employees and customers safe while still operating as an essential business and taking action to ensure the virus did not spread within our facilities,” she said. “I want to give credit to the wonderful team I worked with, too, who followed through on protocols developed, putting them into place throughout our many locations on two islands. I also want to give credit to our awesome employees who followed and continue to follow safety protocols, as we would not have been so successful if it was not for their full cooperation.”
Though her primary responsibility is HR, Montalvo has always had safety-related responsibilities. She said if she could change one thing about her past, she wouldn’t have worked for HC&S for as long as she did.
“Having the opportunity to work for Hawaii Petroleum has shown me that change is good, and career-wise, it’s advantageous to experience working for more than one organization over one’s lifetime.”
She is most proud of her team’s contributions during her 12-year tenure.
“I continually want to grow in my current position here and work towards making continual improvements in my area of responsibility that will positively impact the business. Long term, when I retire, I look forward to being able to do whatever I choose to do each day. We have a small farm where my husband raises protea flowers. With more time, I’ll be able to help him on the farm as well as with other things around our house, as well as spend more time with our granddaughter.”
She said she’s most surprised by how quickly her 37-year career has passed.
“And I’m still never bored,” she laughed. “Safety is always number one and has to be at the forefront of everything we all do, and it’s everyone’s responsibility. That being said, we have an individual responsibility to speak up if we note anything unsafe. I have to say that it is truly an honor, and I am grateful to Saltchuk for awarding me the Mike Garvey Safety Award. I’d like to congratulate the other nominees and finalists as well – we’re all winners in my book!”