The Executive Committee
President – Wendy Peskin
Wendy had 24 years of non-profit experience with Heifer Project International. She worked for 9 years in Development (also known as Fund Raising) and she also holds a Master of Architecture degree from Washington University . She moved to East Hawaii from Massachusetts in 2010 and was drawn to the Palace because of her interest in foreign and independent films, but she has grown to be an avid fan of Palace concerts and productions like the Musical and Variety Show. She has served on the Board since 2012, and became its president in January 2014. “I love helping steer the renovation and restoration of this beautiful 1925 edifice. What a glorious contribution the Palace makes to Hilo’s Central Business district.”
Vice President – Larry Reitzer
Larry recently directed Biloxi Blues (EHCC) “Gypsy” (Hilo Palace Theater), “Aladdin” with a cast of 200 youth performers (UH Hilo Performing Arts Center) and “The Lion King, Jr” (Patchogue Theatre, NY). His next production will be “Beauty and the Beast” for the Palace with a cast of over 100 young performers. Prior to retirement, Larry worked for four years in Company Management on the Broadway and touring companies of LES MISERABLES and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Larry also had a twenty year career in Hollywood working in television production and as a television writer on such shows as “Spin City”, “Just Shoot Me”, “Melissa and Joey,” and “Ugly Betty.” Larry has sold and developed pilots for Disney Channel, ABC, NBC, Universal, Warner Brothers and ABC Family.
Secretary – Beth Block
Beth Block is a film artist and documentary filmmaker who also worked in the film industry, primarily as a visual effects artist and supervisor. She taught film production at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and visual effects at California Institute of the Arts. Her films have been screened and awarded internationally. She has been a lifelong supporter of the arts, serving on the board of Los Angeles Filmforum for eighteen years, including several terms as president, and as a founding and board member of the NewTown Pasadena Foundation including three terms as president. She lived in Los Angeles before retiring and fleeing to Hawaii where she now dwells in splendor with her husband, several animals and too many palm trees.
Treasurer – Susan Starkey Hendricks
Susan was raised in Wichita by professional musician parents and she is quick to point out that the music gene skipped her entirely. She attended Wichita State University before moving to Seattle in 1982. With an accounting background, she worked for Noranda, a Canadian based natural resources company, Carrera/Maximus, a software consulting company, and finally, before retiring in 2006, Expedia.com as a systems specialist in the financial department. Susan is the owner of Puna Notary Services.
Susan and her husband moved to their home in Kapoho in 2008 and were very active in the community. They moved from Kapoho in 2018 because of the eruption that forced so many families from the area and now live just outside of Pahoa. Having served on the Palace Board from January 2013 to December 2015, she was asked to return to as Treasurer in March 2019. ‘I love the incredible diversity of entertainment that is offered at the Palace. It is exciting for me to see the restoration of this historic Hilo treasure.’
I arrived in Hilo in 1956 from Micronesia with my parents and 6 younger siblings. I have seen many and much change here in Hilo town and lived through the 1960 Tsunami. My occupations have been varied from toy demonstrator, rental car agent, jobs in the food industry to 13 years at a children’s specialty store. I love working with people especially children. I’m humbly proud that I have the opportunity to help to perpetuate one of Hilo’s famous landmarks …the grand lady of film, theater and music … the Palace Theater.
A resident of Hawai’i for 30 years, served as Administrative Director with United States Department of Agriculture for 12 years serving Hawai’i and the Western Pacific. Fifteen years as Assistant Human Resources Director/ Employee Relations Specialist for Hawai’i Health Systems Corporation serving Hilo Medical Center, Honoka’a and Ka’u Hospitals – from which I retired in September 2016. For the past 14 years worked with every community theater organization in Hilo including University of Hawai’i – Hilo Performing Arts Center, Kilauea Drama and Entertainment Network, Hilo Community Players and The Palace Theater. This includes directly providing continued hands-on support, theatrical resources and monetary donations. Worked on every Palace musical production since Gypsy in 2004, as well and many other Palace productions over the years. As a community theater activist and advocates; I have also designed and built sets, provided sound effects, stage managed and performed in countless productions with all of the above named theater groups, and then some.
Deborah Kimball, Ph.D.
Deborah Kimball is a full time retiree who moved from the mountains of Montana to Hilo in 2014. She lives with her husband, Bill Robinson, who retired as the Chief Medical Officer at Bozeman Health Group. Deb was the senior director of the Market Research and Strategic Planning divisions for Global Sprint communications. Deb has extensive board experience in the nonprofit world that spans 30+ years. Most recently she was the secretary of the Bozeman Montana Film Society.
Member since 2016
Dana E. Butler is a senior associate with Hastings & Pleadwell, LLC, a boutique communication company with offices in Honolulu and Hilo. Her projects have included working with the City and
County of Honolulu to develop a public education and communication plan to support a storm water utility for O‘ahu, providing communications support to the County of Hawaii in its recovery
from the 2018 Kilauea eruption; and providing community outreach for the State of Hawaii in a three-year federally funded research study into road usage charges.
Prior to working with Hastings & Pleadwell, Dana worked at Kalani Honua, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Hawaii’s largest retreat center, from 2010 until it closed in 2018 due
to the lava flow. At Kalani, she was part of the leadership team and served as its executive chef, managing a team of 40 staff and volunteers responsible for sustainably producing over 125,000
meals a year.
She started her working life as a business litigator in Southern California for 12 years before moving to Hawaii in 2010 for a change in direction. She fell in love with the Puna District and calls it home. By serving on the Board of the Palace Theater, she hopes to expand her connections to the East Hawai’i community.
She is a graduate of New York University and holds a J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She also studied environmental and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Hawai‘i Island businessman, Kris Speegle is the owner of two local Allstate Insurance Agencies, Nakoa Kai Insurance Professionals with locations in Hilo and Kailua-Kona. He is also the loving, supportive hubby to his wife Paulla and her fun local retail pet business, Aloha Pawz. He and Paulla graduated together from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with bachelor’s of business administration degrees in Finance & Management and through UH ROTC, Kris commissioned as an Army officer at the same time.
Between 2002 and 2012, he served in the Army National Guard, travelled throughout the US and around the world to places like Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Germany and Korea on various missions and deployments. At the end of his Army career he achieved the rank of Captain.
Growing up, Kris’ grandmother Carol Ann Davis would tell him about fond memories and stories about staying in the upstairs apartment at Palace Theater with her father Elmer Davis when she was a little girl. Kris’ great grandfather Elmer was the head of Consolidated Amusement Company in Hawaii at that time. This was during the late 1930s.
Both Kris and Paulla are members of the Rotary Club of South Hilo and Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce together, and Kris is a founding member of the Big Island Referral Network. Along with community involvement, they instill a foundation of giving back as a key part of their businesses and in their family of 5. Their world revolves around their children Nakoa (5), Kai (2) and Francesca (5mo).
Born and raised on Army bases, Russell attended Penn State University with a B.S degree in Biology. Russell began working in the natural food business in 1975, and was among the pioneers of the modern natural foods industry. Russell moved to the Big Island in 1985 after arriving on a small wooden sailboat. In 1998 Russell designed and built Island Naturals Market and Deli in Hilo, Hawaii. Now with three stores including Pahoa and Kailua-Kona and over 200 employees, Island Naturals is committed to supporting local farmers and producers. In 2015 Russell was named “Small Businessperson of the Year” for the state of Hawaii by the SBA.
In 2012 Russell became a state senator, where he served until 2020. His focus was on environment, economic justice, and helping Puna recover from a series of disasters.
An avid musician, Russell plays in several bands and perform solo and with his wife Dina. Together they have a 4-year old daughter, Aviva. Russell is also a grandparent and father to three other daughters. In addition to music, he is a collector of fine acoustic guitars and an amateur photographer. He loves the Palace as a quality and historic performance space for our talented community.