Longtime Lihu’e resident and first-time County Council hopeful Scott Sagum is making his bid to preserve Kaua’i’s lifestyle and restore tourism and Kaua’i’s unique culture.
Sagum said living in Dallas and Los Angeles and other off-island places has given him a perspective that can be implemented here. Clean air and water, open spaces and a healthy lifestyle are reasons Kaua’i is special, he said.
Sagum was raised in Honolulu and on the Big Island and moved to Kaua’i in 1980 to join the staff of the Waiohai Hotel. He later served as general manager of the neighboring Poipu Beach Hotel. He was most recently the manager of the Kaua’i Inn in Nawiliwili.
He said that his work experience with the visitor industry has taught him that visitors return to Kaua’i because of our unique culture and people, and not to be herded together and bused to tourist traps. People come to Hawai’i not for hotels and cuisine. No tourist goes back to the Mainland and says, “Go see the general manager of that hotel,” he said. “They come because of the people and to see how we live together in relative harmony.”
Sagum left AMFAC in 1982 and moved to Dallas just before Hurricane ‘Iwa hit Kaua’i. Over the next seven years, he transferred between Dallas and Los Angeles twice. Sagum said he moved back to Kaua’i in 1992 just before Hurricane ‘Iniki struck.
Development on the island is inevitable, Sagum admitted, but Kaua’i needs to remember what things were like in the 1970s and 1980s, he said. Kaua’i must limit development and make sure that the island doesn’t turn into another Waikiki, he said.
He related the story of looking upon the buildings and development in Waikiki in the mid-1970s with his brother. He said they looked at each other and both knew that “we didn’t ask for this.”
All residents should take part in debating the County’s General Plan Update to ensure that all voices are heard and taken into account, Sagum said. Otherwise, we might get something because we didn’t say otherwise.
“Besides the strength of diversity, there’s strength in inclusion,” Sagum said.
In 1993, Sagum suffered a stroke that left the left side of his body partially paralyzed. He said the stroke could have killed him. He said that for years he ignored doctors’ advice to take medication for high blood pressure.
Sagum said he believed he was healthy and didn’t heed doctor’s orders. He said he was one of the first 100 people ever, and the first hotel manager, to compete in the grueling Ironman Triathlon in Kailua-Kona.
After the stroke Sagum said he used the same determination that dictated his rigorous training for the Ironman to recover. His experience working at a time-consuming and demanding job also gave him the discipline to learn to walk again after the stroke, he said. During his struggle, he found the people and the community of Kaua’i to be supportive.
Accessibility is important to Sagum so he can be mobile and independent.
If Kaua’i can be the most accessible place in the world for people with disabilities, imagine how many more people would come to visit because of the special accommodations we provide, Sagum said. For example, he can access Shipwrecks Beach a lot easier than most any other beach on the island because of the beach park’s accessibility features.
He said that preserving beach access is not just a recreational issue, it’s a health issue, too. Our local people need to be able to go down to the beach to go fishing, swimming, unwind and relax, he said. Preserving access to beaches also preserves Kaua’i’s culture and hospitality, the reasons visitors enjoy vacationing on Kaua’i.
Sagum said that local kids need to be encouraged to stay and spend their lives in Hawai’i. There are opportunities in the visitor industry that allows anyone to climb the ladder, as he did, moving up from a dishwasher to general manager.
At the same time, Kaua’i needs to encourage businesses to grow and diversify the local economy with non-polluting industries. We need to say to developers: “You want to be here? There’s a price. You have to play by our rules,” he said.
Sagum is a partner in the West Kaua’i Craft Fair. The monthly event gives local residents and visitors a chance to meet artists, crafters and farmers. Sagum said he believes visitors are interested in the local culture of Kaua’i and want to know the story behind the items they buy, and don’t want to be limited to buying souvenirs at big box retailers.
Sagum is also an active volunteer for the American Heart Association, and is starting a stroke support group with the organization.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 252).