JoAnne Georgi, 59, had considered running for public office before this year.
Then the state Legislature again failed to pass a law that would have exempted the purchase of food and drugs from the 4-percent state general excise tax (GET).
“That was the crowning blow,” said Georgi, whose husband Bill ran unsuccessfully for the Kaua’i and Ni’ihau seat on the state Board of Education.
She favors a state GET exemption on both food and drugs, and says lawmakers who don’t support legislation like this that will benefit the poorest island residents maybe aren’t fit to continue serving.
“It’s time our state legislators are held accountable,” said Georgi, a Republican running for the new state House District 16 seat now held by state Rep. Bertha Kawakami (D, south and west Kaua’i, Ni’ihau). Kawakami lives in Hanapepe.
Georgi, of Kalaheo, faces a rarity in recent memory where state legislative races on Kaua’i are concerned: a Republican primary election challenge, from Jose M. Felix-Keamoai, of ‘Ele’ele.
The new Westside district now includes all of Po’ipu, portions of Koloa, portions of Lawa’i mauka of Kaumuali’i Highway and makai of Koloa Road, and everything else from Kalaheo west, including Ni’ihau.
Besides her wish to lead the tax-reform fight in the Legislature, Georgi sees government corruption, a state economy that discourages people from coming home to work after going away to college, and a dysfunctional education system as key concerns she’d like to help address.
The state economy is the reason thousands of young people leave the state each year to go to the Mainland, because they can’t earn a living here, she said.
“Hawai’i needs to create new, productive, well-paying jobs. We need to remember that over-regulating business makes it harder to do business,” she added.
“And when we make it harder to do business, less business gets done.”
Government corruption has been uncovered in various state agencies, she said, and the Legislature has failed to respond in a leadership role.
The public schools, she said, are in no better shape. Teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation, when the state’s high cost of living is factored in, and they often teach in substandard conditions, without adequate supplies, she commented. Needed repairs aren’t being funded.
“Those who know our schools best don’t trust them. Over half of our legislators and public-school teachers who have school-age children enroll them in private schools,” said Georgi.
Her solutions include ensuring that each child has textbooks, establishment of local school boards made up of individuals who know the problems within their districts, and accountability for all responsible for educational performance (parents, teachers, students, administrators, lawmakers, etc.).
“We might be losing an entire generation,” those students currently enrolled in public schools, she fears.
There are children in special-education programs not necessarily because they are special-needs children, but because they’re lazy, she said.
Reading and math must be stressed, and she favors recruiting senior citizens and others to be mentors, to help students with their reading before, during and after school.
“An encouraging word to a kid does make a difference. It’s a community issue,” she said. “Something’s got to be done. It’s time that we take some action.”
Further, something needs to be done about getting young, trained teachers to want to come home and teach. She knows of several specific cases on Kaua’i where Kaua’i natives have gone off to get education degrees, but don’t want to come home where some teachers live lives of poverty.
Georgi works two jobs, as a service technician for Pitney Bowes Mailing Shipping & Addressing Systems, and as an outside personal contact at Embassy Vacation Resort Poipu Point.
She’d give up the Pitney Bowes job if elected, she said.
Married to Bill Georgi, the couple shares seven children and 19 grandchildren. In addition, they also have been foster parents on Kaua’i.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).