This is the first of profiles on those running for Kauai County Council. TGI plans to run at least one profile daily. Fourteen candidates are running for seven, two-year seats.
Within five minutes of conversation with County Council candidate Luke Evslin, it is obvious that he is a man who understands system interconnectedness. This is unsurprising for those familiar with his experience.
The 33-year-old Kauai native built his business, Kamanu Composites, an Oahu-based canoe manufacturer, from the ground up and until recently was residing off-grid in a yurt. While many of the millennial generation expound the merits of tiny homes dropped off in far-flung fields, the Evslin-family’s alternative-living experiment illustrated how collective approaches to conservation were sociologically and ecologically better in the long-run.
“Community is the core of sustainability,” said Evslin, discussing how his solar panels would hit capacity mid-day.
Given this insight, it’s no wonder the highest priority on Luke Evslin’s list is, “housing, housing, housing. Housing affects everything else.”
As a supporter of the General Plan’s guidelines for increasing density in already established townships, Evslin, who holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii and is working on a master’s of public administration, envisions a future where land-use and zoning policies help people afford to live close to where they work.
He and his family are among the first to take advantage of a new bill allowing the construction of multi-family units on their Lihue property and have begun the installation of an apartment for rent.
According to Evslin and the Planning Department, these and other long-term efforts will help alleviate Kauai-centric stressors from heavy traffic to boosting the economy and becoming more appealing to tech workers.
They are hopeful that such changes will alleviate some of the monetary burdens facing young people and help cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship within the community.
With his wife Sokchea, daughter Finley, and a second baby due the day of the election, Luke Evslin is a family man who has his eye on policies that can help Kauai’s youth come back to the island to build a life.
“That kid can go out and get a Ph.D. and be able to come home,” he says.
Having grown up in Wailua with parents Dr. Lee and Micki Evslin and siblings, Tanya, Noah, and Nathaniel, he recognizes how lucky he was to be in a stable household, which for many is a tremendous luxury.
“If you grew up on Kauai, you have a different vision in your head and a shared experience of rapid change over the past decades which has impacted your quality of life,” he said. “The Kauai we grew up with is no longer here. We need to pull back and find ways to manage our growth.”
To this point, Kauai is exceeding its capacity for tourism and Evslin acknowledges that more isn’t always better for visitors and residents. With his trademark belief in policy, he would like to see a reduction in vacation rentals and no expansion of the airport.
Like most issues on Kauai today, those dear to Luke Evslin are expansive and difficult to resolve.
During his term he’d like to establish policy to reduce the cost of housing, address inequality, alleviate traffic, and get us to zero carbon emissions. Our island is a case study for the nation at large, but Evslin doesn’t want people to lose hope.
“It’s possible for us to solve these issues,” he said. “All of these issues are related and they’re not going to be solved on their own. They’re going to be solved through policy.”
For additional information on Luke Evslin and his run for a County Council seat, please visit his campaign website, www.lukeevslin.com.