Upcoming inauguration will be a ‘happy day’ for Kusaka

LIHU’E – No matter who becomes the next mayor of the County of Kaua’i, he will have the support of his predecessor.

“No matter who wins, we need to all get behind him and support him,” said Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who noted that Monday, Dec. 2, when the new mayor takes his oath of office, “will be a happy day for me.”

“It’s a difficult job. When you get over one hump, there’s three more,” said Kusaka, adding that one of her last official duties will be to congratulate the new mayor.

The next mayor, likely a current member of the Kaua’i County Council, will have an advantage Kusaka didn’t enjoy, that being aware of ongoing legal concerns and other matters facing the county, she said.

Three of the four mayoral candidates, Bryan Baptiste, Ron Kouchi and Randal Valenciano, are now councilmembers. The other mayoral candidate is accountant and businessman Dennis Nimkie.

While she’d take the opportunity to sit down with the new mayor after the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election to answer questions and talk about ideas she’d like to see him follow through on, she doesn’t feel it’s her place to offer her thoughts about how the next mayor should run Kaua’i.

“I don’t give people advice, per se,” but she’ll offer her informed opinions if asked, she said.

Over her eight years in office, the last two have been the most difficult in terms of dealing with the County Council, she said.

Among certain of the current seven councilmembers, an attitude exists that they must disagree with the administration on nearly all matters, she said.

That contrasts sharply with a period four years ago when Baptiste, Kouchi, Valenciano, and fellow Councilmembers Gary Hooser, Daryl Kaneshiro, Billy Swain and Jimmy Tokioka formed a cooperative relationship with Kusaka that allowed county government to accomplish much, she said.

“That is so important,” for the mayor to work with the council in an atmosphere of openness and agreement, Kusaka said. That atmosphere is nearly nonexistent now, she added.

One of the current councilmembers once told her she’s not playing the game of politics, and she responded that she doesn’t know the rules of that game.

How she has conducted herself in her eight years in office has been with honesty, fairness and openness, she said. “I have no secrets.”

During the two years, 1989 and 1990, when the mayor and council got along, and visioning sessions were conducted between the administration and council to form long-range goals for the island, there were criticisms about a too-cozy relationship between the two branches of government.

But “the community won” because of all that was accomplished during that time of cooperation, Kusaka said.

She admitted that she is happy to see differences of opinion on the current council regarding the proposed sale of Kauai Electric to the Kaua’i Island Utility Co-op.

For the past 14 years, a woman has been the elected leader of county government, JoAnn Yukimura from 1988 to 1994, and Kusaka from 1994 to the end of this year.

In December, a man will move in, and that will change things in many ways, Kusaka feels.

A male mayor will bring a different perspective, and different things will be important, she said. “It’ll be a different approach.” Women are more organized, with better attention to details, compared to men, she feels.

Women have more compassion, too, she said.

Some things will remain the same, Kusaka said, like the public’s desire to call on the mayor’s office whether they have an appointment or not.

“People want to see the mayor. They want to be heard.”

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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