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Tommy Waters likely to become chairman of Honolulu City Council

Veteran lawmaker Tommy Waters will lead the Honolulu City Council as its chairman when a new lineup meets for the first time Jan. 2, under a resolution made public Thursday.

Two of the five rookie Council members will hold the two other major Council leadership slots in the leadership plan, which is expected to win the support of a majority of the new nine-member Council.

Councilwoman-elect Esther Kiaaina will be vice chairwoman, while Councilwoman-elect Andria Tupola will serve as floor leader of the Council, which for the first time will have a majority of women.

In another first for the Council, a majority of five new Council members will take their seats for the first time, replacing five others.

The leadership team is listed in Resolution 20-322, introduced by Councilman Brandon Elefante, who is expected to hold a key role under Waters’ team, as are new members Radiant Cordero and Calvin Say.

Who will lead Council committees, including the critical Budget and Zoning committees, likely won’t be finalized until around Jan. 2, the day that the new Council members and Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi are sworn into office.

The other three Council members are holdovers Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Carol Fukunaga, and freshman Augie Tulba.

Tsuneyoshi was believed to be seeking to become chairman, and Tulba said publicly he would support her.

“I’m very humbled to serve should a majority of my colleagues support me,” Waters said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon the incoming Council to take urgent action to address the needs of the citizens of the City and County of Honolulu. From navigating the challenges we’re facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing affordable housing for residents and revitalizing and diversifying our economy, it is clear that we all need to work together in a constructive, cohesive manner so that our communities can thrive.”

Outgoing Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi has chaired the Council in recent months following former Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson’s resignation in September.

Waters, who represents Council District 4 (Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana), was elected to the Council in a special election in April 2019 when he defeated then-incumbent Councilman Trevor Ozawa.

Waters’ 1,004-vote victory capped an extended election period that was precipitated by the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision in January 2019 to invalidate the November 2018 general election results for the seat, which the Office of Elections’ results showed Ozawa winning by a razor-thin 22 votes.

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