Volunteer Spotlight: Arkie Koehl

As we celebrate and acknowledge Volunteer Appreciation Month we are spotlighting Arkie Koehl. Read on and be inspired!

Sometimes birthdays can be more meaningful when you give to others, than when you receive a gift. That certainly was the case for Arkie Koehl for his 65th birthday on January 20, 2004. That day was also Koehl’s first day of retirement, so he headed to the Pacific Club to play paddle tennis with his friend David Taylor, who was then, the Chair of the MADD Hawaii Board.

“David said ‘Happy Birthday Arkie! Now that you’re retired, you’ll be wanting to give back to the community,’” Koehl recollects. “He invited me to join the MADD board. I had no personal experience with MADD but I knew about it and have been there ever since.”

Twenty years later, Koehl has been one of the most vital volunteer leaders of MADD Hawaii, serving on the Hawaii advisory board for two decades and as the chair in 2010. He was elected to serve on the National MADD Board for three years, in a position that required traveling to Dallas, Texas for meetings three times a year.

In his early years with MADD Hawaii, Koehl’s volunteer roles consisted of monitoring DUI trials at Honolulu District Court as well as the speaker, addressing groups like the military, schools, or civic organizations on the dangers of impaired driving. He also found himself visiting the State Legislature frequently to testify on bills, at the “suggestion” of Founder Carol McNamee.

The first public policy task he was involved in, was ignition interlock (the in-car breathalyzer). Working with Carol, as well as with law enforcement and other highway safety stakeholders, it took four years for interlock to become law, in January 2011. Since that time, over 128,000 attempts to start their cars by drivers with alcohol in their system have been prevented by the device.

Presently, Arkie is working to influence lawmakers to lower the BAC (blood alcohol content) level from .08 to .05. Unfortunately, the bill failed this year under highly frustrating circumstances, but Koehl says MADD intends to be back, fighting to pass it during the 2025 session. He continues to be a regular participant in MADD sign-waving events, and police checkpoints and gives interviews to the local press on impaired driving issues.

Before moving to Honolulu in 2001 to head up the Loomis ad agency, Arkie’s advertising career included stints on Madison Avenue, as well as in Mexico City, Santiago, Tokyo, and San Francisco. A native of Manhattan, Arkie says that of all the places he has lived, San Francisco seems the most exotic!

Arkie and Ruth Koehl now live at the Arcadia Retirement Residence in Makiki, where he is active in several capacities including entertaining the residents with piano performances three times a week.  Their son lives in Niu Valley with his wife, Melanie, and three kids; and their daughter in Cape Cod, with two children.

“The mission of MADD Hawaii is near and dear to my heart,” he says.


These photos share with everyone how many volunteers it takes to keep MADD Hawaii on track with it’s vision of No More Victims.
Pictures from a Tie One On for Safety and Christmas event include other extraordinary volunteers who serve on the Advisory Board.
The last picture is of Arkie and David Taylor.
Our community owes both of these men a huge mahalo for helping make our roads safer for all of our friends and family.