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He was born Muliufi Francis Hannemann in Honolulu on July 16, 1954, the sixth of seven children of Samoan immigrants Gustav and Faiaso Hannemann. Mother cared for the children, while father worked at several jobs to support the family. Theirs was a spiritual and loving home where each day began and ended with prayer. He attended Fern Elementary School before being accepted to Iolani School. Always a top student, Hannemann’s physical stature also gave him a prominent place in sports.

The 6-foot, 7-inch scholar-athlete would earn not only all-star honors for his basketball and football prowess, but lead the school as student body president. It was in high school that he was nicknamed “Mufi” by a local sportswriter, and it’s a name he’s kept ever since.

His academic record gained him admission to Harvard University following graduation in 1972. His mother had always wished that one of her children would someday attend Harvard, and she lived to see her dream come true before her untimely death following Hannemann’s freshman year in Cambridge. Despite this deep loss, he held leadership positions in student government, lettered on the Crimson basketball team, and graduated cum laude in 1976. Following graduation, Hannemann was named a Fulbright Scholar and spent the next year studying at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Hannemann returned home to join the faculty and coach the varsity basketball team at alma mater Iolani. In 1979, he was tapped by Governor George Ariyoshi to be a special assistant on Pacific affairs. The governor’s office would serve as a launching pad for Hannemann’s career in government, business, and politics. In the summer of 1980, he was picked to be a special assistant in the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Carter administration. Hannemann later returned to the State Capitol, and in 1983 would be named a White House Fellow through a nationwide competition, have the privilege of serving with then-Vice President George Bush in the Reagan White House, and traveling the world over.

Hannemann joined C. Brewer and Company following the conclusion of his fellowship, was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress in 1986, and later rejoined Brewer as vice president for marketing, corporate development, and public affairs.

In 1991, Governor John Waihee appointed Hannemann to be the director of the Office of International Relations, and little more than one year later, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. He resigned his cabinet post to run for the Honolulu City Council in 1994 and represented the Aiea-Pearl City-Waipahu district for one term. He was re-elected in an uncontested race in 1998 and later served as Council chairman during part of his tenure at City Hall.

He was the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, taking office in 2005 and reelected to a second term. As mayor, Hannemann and his team amassed a remarkable record of accomplishment in achieving an 80-percent approval rating before he left office. 

Hannemann has the distinction of having served in four U.S. Presidential administrations. He is the founder of the Pacific Century Fellows, modeled after the White House program, and volunteers with the Iolani School board of governors and various non-profit organizations. He has donated numerous scholarships and awards to high school students over the years.

Hannemann is married to Gail Akiko Mukaihata. She was born and raised in California and is a UCLA alumna. They met during Hannemann’s first job in Washington, D.C., while she was a professional staff member on Capitol Hill.

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