Name on ballot:
Kauai county council
Grove Farm Company, Inc. – Project Manager & County of Kauai – Councilmember
Previous job history:
2007 – Present – Project Manager, Grove Farm Company, Inc., Lihue, HI
2004 – 2007 – Senior Accountant, Schwindt & Co., Portland, OR
Previous elected office, if any:
2014 – Present – Councilmember, County of Kauai, Lihue, HI
Please describe your qualifications to represent the voters of your county.
I am running for Kauai County Council because I care about Kauai and I care about its future. I bring homegrown sensibility, my business and accounting acumen, six years of experience on the council as Chair of the budget, my commitment to community service, and the values and principles that were instilled in me from family, teachers, coaches, and the community. Growing up here, I believe I can represent the people of Kauai and Niihau well because I am a regular, everyday Kauai resident who works hard and wants to make the best life for myself and my family.
What will be your top priority if elected?
Fiscal responsibility has always been my top priority, especially now given the pandemic. I chaired the past 6 budgets and am proud of the financial condition in which our County is currently in. During this time, I have continuously stressed the importance of a structurally balanced budget with a healthy reserve for emergency situations. It was not easy, but a reserve budget has always been one of my primary focuses, and I advocated for, fought for, and ultimately was able to establish and maintain a 30 percent emergency reserve. Our County reserve has since grown from $19 million in 2014 to around $60 million today. This reserve has ensured that we have the means to withstand natural disasters and economic downturns such as the effects we are currently feeling from COVID-19. Continuing to maintain county services, ensuring we have money to pay our employees, and pursuing projects that stimulate our economy will be essential to get through this crisis.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?
Protecting the health and safety of our residents is of the utmost priority. Kauai has done a great job and in many instances, we led the State with our proactive approach to dealing with the virus and it paid off. Our island experienced the lowest number of active cases in the State, minimal community spread, and no deaths.
Everyone is doing the best they can, considering the circumstances, and I will continue to push and advocate for as much support our County can provide given our limited resources. We need to continue to leverage and utilize Federal Cares Act money for PPE, ensure systems are in place to protect residents from travelers, and continue to keep and expand enforcement programs that help screen travelers.
What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?
We have a role in stimulating the local economy, but we need to ensure that we do not spend money or create debt that overburdens our future generations. We should continue to compete for and leverage State and Federal grants for infrastructure projects, to keep people working. We also need to keep the administration accountable when spending CARES Act money and ensure it is being used to assist and feed our residents, expand social services, and help local businesses.
Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the county deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?
That would be the last resort. We still need to provide services and have the county run safely and smoothly. If this economic spiral continues past this year and we are forced to cut expenses, it will not be in services, but in areas such as travel, vehicle purchases, and a hold on new hires. However, not knowing how long this pandemic will last, we cannot responsibly rule anything out.
What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?
We need to build on our public private partnerships with organizations like Kauai Economic Opportunity (KEO) and Women in Need (WIN) to provide additional shelter space. The County has lobbied the State and put money towards KEO and WIN to increase their capacity for additional beds.
The County has also taken major strides towards breaking the cycle of homelessness with the recent construction of two housing projects in Lihue. Kealaula and Pua Loke Affordable Housing are being built to transition families from homelessness to permanent supportive housing. These projects will not only provide a roof over families’ heads, but also direct social services such as financial literacy, substance abuse, parenting life skills, and employment services.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
Policing needs to evolve with public expectations and we need to be responsive to those calls. That being said, many of the issues arising from recent police brutality on the mainland we thankfully have not experienced here on Kauai. We should not rush to judgment in over-limiting the ability of our police to do their job. Yes, we must continue in our legislative role to hold our law enforcement accountable, but we must also support their mission as they maintain the peace and safety of our community. Their recent vigilance in arresting quarantine violators is an example of the broad reliance we have on our police officers, and we need to maintain a professional, well-trained, well-equipped force to protect our island.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
My family has been in agriculture for 4 generations. Aside from my work as a project manager at Grove Farm and councilmember, my dad, brother, and I run a 900 head sheep farm.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my family and friends that have supported me through out the last 6 years and I would be humbled and honored to have your vote and serve out my final term.
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