Inauguration attendees look forward to future

PUHI — Jacquelyn Fernandez said there’s promise in the ideas Mayor Derek Kawakami addressed in his inauguration speech Monday.

“I’ve never seen traffic this way, like by Brideswood in Kalaheo. Traffic is backing up more than it has before. Lawai too, by the light,” Fernandez said. “He (Kawakami) was talking about staggered hours, that might really help. We need something.”

Traffic solutions like staggering start and end times for county employee workdays, the creation of a new Office of Human Concerns to target drug use and homelessness, and pledges to “restore public trust in the government” were all part of Kawakami’s speech.

Jean Odo sat in the back of the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, thinking of her time working alongside Kawakami’s mother, Arlene Kawakami, and of Derek when he was young.

“I gave him his first job. He was an aide in the classroom, and he was reliable and good even then, always called when he couldn’t come in so I could get a substitute,” she said.

Odo continued: “His mom and dad would be proud, and I expect good things out of Derek.”

Angela Pupek remembers Kawakami from the Big Save days, as her family owned Big Save with the Kawakami family and she used to rely on him to help run the stores.

“He was always helpful,” Pupek said. “Also, he’s been in other seats (on the Legislature) before, and he’s young. He has a fresh mind for the job.”

Kawakami, 41, has inspired a slew of young people. Reid Gallegos pointed out the new mayor’s ease with technology and understanding of things like social media as a huge benefit.

“We’ve been analog, and now we’re in a digital world,” Gallegos said.

And in the midst of keeping stride with the rest of the world, Gallegos said he hopes Kawakami continues to unite the island with in-person events that will foster connection.

“I’m hoping that he’ll bring people together in a face-to-face way, because right now there’s a tendency to be disconnected and not have that face-to-face connection,” he said.

Change was in the air as not only the new mayor, but also a new county council was sworn into power.

Gallegos and Fernandez both said change is good.

“We have to be open to change so we don’t stay stagnant, running around in the same circles,” Fernandez said. “Change is exciting.”

As far as what comes next, those who attended the inauguration were hopeful as the ceremony came to an end, and everyone mingled to talk story in the foyer.

And Fernandez, along with many others in the crowd, is waiting to see what comes next.

“Only time can tell,” she said.

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Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

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