Before he became a vice president for Disneyland Resorts and Aulani at Ko Olina on Oahu and a Kamehameha Schools trustee, Elliot Mills was an all-around student-athlete at St. Joseph, where he sharpened his greatest gift.
The 1988 St. Joseph graduate was a power forward on the basketball team, which featured Kimo Alameda, John Mac Kalauli, Sheldon Yasso and the late Keala Kawauhau.
Though he could rebound and score on the post, Mills was best known for collaboration, not just among his teammates but rivals from other schools as well.
“He got along with everybody. He was the guy who got the athletes from different schools to be friends,” Alameda said. “He was the ultimate bridge and peacemaker. Elliot had friends in every school, and he used the game of basketball to solidify those relationships.
“We had a friendly rivalry against Hilo High’s Bruce Ferreira and Co. and Waiakea’s Neil Azevedo. His biggest contribution was how he brought everybody together and made the game more than a competition but a gathering of friends.”
Mills went to St. Joseph from the second grade and valued the core values that the school and sports provided.
“St. Joseph taught me a lot about collaboration and good core values, like loyalty, good decision-making and leadership, how to build teams and collaborate with one another,” Mills said. “Basketball was a big deal back then. It created a lot of camaraderie and good competition. We had good competition with Hilo, Waiakea, Honokaa and Konawaena. I made a lot of great relationships and many of those friendships are still active today.”
Can you see Donald Duck giving a high-five to an opponent who steals the ball or dunks on him?
Probably not, right. Not even Disney characters are that magnanimous.
But it didn’t bother Mills to praise a foe.
“Elliot is the only guy I know that would actually compliment the opposing players for hitting a nice jumper or making a great steal,” Alameda said.
Ferreira, Hilo’s legendary point guard, remembers Mills for that aloha spirit.
“He had the greatest sportsmanship,” Ferreira said. “He was the guy who would help the opponent up, even if his teammates didn’t want him to.
“He reminded me of a George Gervin (the San Antonio Spurs star), smooth player. He looked like he wasn’t going 100 mph but would get the job done. He was a good guy all-around.”
How does someone get filled with an abundance of aloha and is the perfect candidate to work at Disney, the “happiest place on Earth”?
Well, he’s a product of his parents, his late father, George Mills, who worked for the Department of Health, and his mother, Maxine, a school teacher for 27 years.
“I remember his dad as a humble, hard-working man and his mom as a charismatic school teacher,” Alameda said. “He got his dad’s work ethic and his mom’s charm, which are probably the two ingredients for his success.”
Mills wanted to follow is mom into education but shifted gears to business with an emphasis on travel industry while at UH-Manoa.
After graduating in 1993, he kept advancing in the hotel industry, landing at Aulani in 2010.
In 2017, Mills was named to a five-year term as a Kamehameha Schools trustee, tasked with carrying out the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
While at St. Joseph, Mills participated in hoops, football, volleyball, track and field, baseball and wants his children Taylor, 10 and Connor, 7, to do the same.
“We’ve exposed them to basketball, tennis, baseball, volleyball, golf, flag football and see what sports they enjoy and what sticks,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll pick up one or two and learn leadership skills, like team building.”
At Aulani, management is still waiting on word when Gov. Ige opens up the hotel industry.
After more than two decades in the hotel industry, Mills is still the same guy when he was back at St. Joseph.
“The most rewarding part of my job is working with all the cast members and diverse groups at Disneyland and Aulani and being collaborative and seeing them succeed together, supporting them in that success,” he said. “That’s the most rewarding part of my role.”