Lieutenant Governor James “Duke” Aiona was on Kauai Friday to speak to the Kauai Rotary Club, which held its regular meeting at the Terrace Restaurant at the Kauai Marriott Resort.
Aiona talked about his 12 years of experience as a circuit court and family court judge, a time he called the “changing point” in his life both personally and professionally.
He estimated that 80 percent of his cases were related to alcohol or drug abuse. While on the bench, he developed the first drug court in the state, which provides treatment or rehabilitation, community service and alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.
“You see child abuse, sexual abuse, neglectYou see all of the dysfunction you don’t want to see in your own families. It opened my eyes as to what was going on in the community,” he said.
Aiona was also here last Saturday at the Waimea Plantation Cottages to speak about drafts for a plan to battle drugs.
When he left the bench in 1999, he said he was approached by Democrats and Republicans to participate in politics or run for office. He said he wasn’t interested and remained uninvolved for almost three years after leaving the Judiciary. As a judge, he said he followed a code of conduct and never aligned himself with a political party.
When approached by the Republican Party of Hawaii to be Linda Lingle’s gubernatorial running mate, he told people he wasn’t interested, but “internally I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea,” he said.
Regarding the legislative branch of government: “Politicsthe first thing that comes to mind is that you gotta wheel and deal” he laughed. “Executive Branch – that’s where you get to make policy and that was exciting.”
After a winning whirlwind campaign, he said that he and Governor Lingle have made accomplishments in developing relationships with members of the legislature and in departments.
“In the past 16 years, the Lieutenant Governor’s office was nothing more than an incubator. You would wait for your turn to run for governor,” he said, “She’s elevated the status of the Lieutenant Governor’s office to a level I’ve never seen before.”
Aiona said he was tasked with coming up with a plan to deal with the dug problem. Currently, state and house legislators are setting up a joint task force on drugs.
“Every community is different. Kauai can be a part of the picture, that’s why we’re trying to give people the road map and how to mobilize the community,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have specific plans for each county, but on Kauai will support Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the community in any way possible.