Big Island mayor released from hospital 11 days after heart attack

  • ROTH

  • Photo courtesy County of Hawaii Mayor Mitch Roth flashes a shaka from the passenger’s seat before his wife, Noriko, drives him home shortly after being discharged Wednesday morning at Hilo Medical Center.

“Right now, the key words are to rest and to heal.”

Mayor Mitch Roth said those are his doctors’ orders.


Roth spoke to the Tribune-Herald Wednesday afternoon from his home.

He was released Wednesday morning from Hilo Medical Center, 11 days after suffering a heart attack in South Kohala.

In addition to the stent surgeons implanted hours after the 56-year-old mayor was stricken on Jan. 9, Roth on Tuesday had a procedure to install an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

“That’s a little bit painful,” he said. “I’m glad to be out. I feel good, other than the pain from the surgery for having this pacemaker put in.”

Before his release from the hospital, Roth was able to witness history — the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“I actually woke up early, sat up in a chair and watched it. I thought it was done very well,” he said. “I thought Biden had a good speech. It’s historic, Kamala Harris, the first woman, a woman of color and a former prosecutor being inaugurated as vice president.

“Because of all the violence in D.C., they had to do it the way they did, and I thought that was kind of unfortunate. This is something our country needs to overcome, and we need to start bringing people back together.”

Roth had high praise for Amanda Gorman, the U.S.’s first Youth Poet Laureate — who at 22 is the youngest poet ever to recite an original work at a presidential inauguration, an honor she shares with literary luminaries including Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a young superstar coming up,” Roth said.

The line “even as we grieved, we grew” from Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was a message of healing not only for the nation, but for Roth, whose mother died Tuesday, a day after her 90th birthday.

“My mom played a huge role in my life,” he said. “In my inauguration speech, I talked about her, some of the lessons I learned from her.”

Roth said news of his mother’s passing “hit me kind of hard.”

“I tried not to call her from the hospital because I didn’t want her to worry about me,” he said. “She liked to put FaceTime on, and I didn’t want her to see me all shabby and in the hospital gown with tubes and everything hooked up to me.

“I’m having second thoughts about that.”

Roth said doctors will check on his condition next week, but in the meantime he’ll keep abreast of county business from home.

“I’ll probably be doing a lot of Zoom calls and stuff from the house for at least another week,” he said. “I’ve got to wait for them to tell me what I can do, how much I can do and when I can do it. I’ll start by doing a lot of my stuff from home.

“One of the comments from my office this morning is that I need to get a doctor’s note to come back,” he added and laughed, then explained the note is required of any county employee absent a week or more for medical reasons.

During Roth’s absence, Lee Lord, his managing director, is acting mayor. Lord represented Roth when the County Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday evening voted 5-4 to forward a negative recommendation to the full council regarding Zendo Kern, Roth’s appointee as planning director.

“I was surprised, which is not too good when you’re in my situation,” Roth said.

Asked if he would submit written or perhaps video testimony to the council on Kern’s behalf, Roth replied, “I may.”

“I haven’t really thought about it, yet. But I probably will do something, but I’m not sure,” he said.

Roth thanked his staff for their hard work and the public for their support and prayers.


“I know I’ve said it before, but it’s really overwhelming and touching,” he said.

Email John Burnett at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email