A career of public service in which she earned a reputation as an effective problem solver and consensus builder served Barbara Kim Stanton well in her role as director of the AARP Hawaii chapter in 2010.
In an era of budget cuts, Stanton helped free up $23.8 million from the state’s rainy day fund for social-service programs, including $3.5 million for the Kupuna Care program that provides long-term care services to elderly residents in their homes. The legislative success was hailed as a victory for Hawaii’s older adults, who face among the highest long-term care costs in the country as well as a shortage of nursing home beds.
"AARP really was the lead in getting the rainy day bill passed," said Charlene Young, a management consultant who has known Stanton since they worked together during the administration of former Gov. John Waihee.
"She’s like a one-person SWAT team," Young said. "She’s very good at moving quickly. She tires me out. She is amazingly tenacious and won’t quit until the job is done."
Stanton’s extensive experience includes Cabinet-level positions at several state and city agencies, and stints as chief clerk of the Senate Ways and Means Committee in the state Legislature and director of Hawaii’s voter education program. Waihee sent her to Kauai in 1992 to help lead the recovery effort following Hurricane Iniki. She drew on all of that when lobbying for social-service programs this year.
THEY MADE A DIFFERENCE
Every day through year’s end, the Star-Advertiser will recognize people who changed Hawaii in 2010. Some are familiar names; others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference. The winners were chosen by Star-Advertiser editors from nominations submitted by staff members and readers.
"She’s had a very rich career in terms of experience," Young said. "Policymakers look to her because she does see the big picture and how the different parts work. People follow her when she leads the charge."
Stanton, 61, took over as state director of the Hawaii AARP in 2005, helping boost the organization’s profile and role in shaping government policy.
"She’s extremely thoughtful and a really deep thinker," said Bruce Bottorff, AARP Hawaii’s associate state director. "She’s a good person to talk strategy with as heading into the legislative session. She will sometimes work around the clock on deadline on the details of legislation."
Through the years, Stanton has become known for her ability to maintain good relationships with people even when their interests were at odds.
"She has the ability to enter negotiations properly prepared and really hammer out a deal through effective communication," Bottorff added. "It’s a gift very few people have."
AARP Hawaii President Stuart Ho, the top volunteer at the organization, said Stanton’s diverse background enables her to serve as a bridge between the AARP membership and a wide variety of government agencies and community groups.
"I think she does one helluva job in trying to coalesce the interests of various interest groups, many of which have more or less narrow perspectives on issues by the time they get to the Legislature," Ho said.