It was Ray Paler’s father, the late Serbando Paler, who first encouraged his son to run for County Council.
That was 20 years ago, when the younger Paler returned from Indiana University-Bloomington armed with a bachelor’s degree in education and ready to become a classroom teacher.
Back then, he thought he was too young and too inexperienced to be a candidate. Then, after working several years in minor positions in the campaigns of others, he found himself evolving from the person who went to pick up soda and ice to the campaign leader, and, eventually, potential candidate.
He learned a lot along that path, and now as a candidate continues to realize that the candidate cannot do much by himself. But with supportive friends, family members and campaign workers to help, much can be accomplished, he feels.
A campaign, Paler said, needs a variety of supportive people willing to perform a myriad of chores, including campaigning house-to-house, spreading the candidate’s vision person-to-person, or simply telling the candidate that they support him or her, and believe in what he or she stands for.
For that and other reasons, he has decided that the focus of his campaign will be the island’s most important resource: Its people, from the young to the old.
“The youth are our future, and the elderly are our collective wisdom,” he said. Both direct the future, and have a lot of valuable input to provide anyone interested in ways to better utilize the island’s human resources.
“We’ve had measured success in the high-school and middle-school level” having police officers stationed on campuses, who have led to decreases in youth crime through education and the officers’ physical presence on campus, he said.
In the elementary schools, the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program helps keep youngsters away from drugs.
Paler would like to see funding for police officers at all the public schools on the island.
Where the elderly are concerned, he has specific ideas as well.
“In these days of fiscal difficulties, we need to find ways to maintain the funding for the elderly programs,” he said. And with the elderly as one of the island’s fastest-growing populations, maintaining current programs means falling behind.
So, new ways of thinking, and efficient use of funds, can ensure necessary programs for the elderly continue meeting their needs, he said. It is part of the local culture, he said, to respect and care for elders.
In the arena of solid-waste management, home and business recycler Paler sees expanding recycling initiatives as the quickest way to address the island’s solid-waste problem.
At his office, soon to be the new location of Mid Pacific Communications, which bought his Kauai Paging & Communications in the Lihue Industrial Park Phase II, Paler shreds waste white paper, using it for packing material.
In his campaign, yard signs are made of recycled and reused lumber.
At home, he and family recycle aluminum, glass, plastic and newspaper. “So, recycling is part of what we do, and it’s not really all that difficult to do,” he said.
The idea, besides extending the life expectancy of the Kekaha landfill, is to lead by doing, he said.
If elected to the council, he’d bring pro-active thinking to the table, using forward thinking to avoid problems before they arise, he said.
The idea is to avoid Band-Aid approaches to problems that sometimes have long-term, detrimental impacts, especially when those approaches, intended to be temporary in nature, become permanent fixes, he said.
“The quick fix shouldn’t be the permanent fix,” and sometimes the quick fixes are difficult to reverse, he said.
Paler recently won the endorsement of the Hawaii Government Employees Association Kaua’i chapter, and said union endorsements boost any campaign lucky enough to get that organized support.
All of the council candidates are leaders in their own rights, with the difference being the level of leadership candidates wish to assume, he said. All have varied experiences that they can bring to the table, giving island voters a lot of options, Paler added.
“This is like the buffet of all buffets now,” he said of the 29 choices for County Council.
Campaigning and meeting people who knew his parents, the late Serbando and Laurencia Paler, and other family members, has been the highlight of his campaign so far, he said.
Reconnecting with his family’s North Shore past, and all of the people who remember his family, has been an unexpected benefit to him and his family, he said.
The campaign has brought home for him the importance of all people, he said.
And regardless of the outcome of the Saturday, Sept. 21 primary election, and Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election, at least Paler won’t have to ask “what if?” in his older days, wondering what would have happened if he had taken his father’s advice and taken a run at a County Council seat.
“At least I can say I tried,” said Paler, who has a campaign Web site, www.raypaler.com.
He lives in Lihu’e with his wife Carol, and children Christina, Crystal and Christopher.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 224).