Changing of the guard coming for KIUC board

There will be a new chair and vice chair of the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors, as all three of the incumbents whose terms expire next month will not seek re-election.

Chair Gregg Gardiner, considered the driving force behind the purchase of the for-profit Kauai Electric and its conversion to the nonprofit KIUC, has decided not to seek re-election in order to devote more time and attention to his magazine-publishing business, he said.

Vice Chair Ron Kouchi, who is considering a run for a seat on the County Council, rattled off a long list of obligations that prevents him from being able to fully commit to a three-year KIUC term: he has been appointed to a one-year term on the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau board of directors; serves on the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital Foundation board; is on the Government Affairs Committee of the Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce; is on the county’s solid waste task force, whose members will begin work soon on updating the county’s old solid-waste master plan; and is working for the new owners of Kauai Lagoons to secure permits necessary for the resort-residential development, and for 82 affordable housing units to be built in Waipouli.

Since council Vice Chair Jimmy Tokioka announced he will leave the council to seek the state House of Representatives seat serving areas of Wailua to Koloa with the announced retirement of Democratic state Rep. Ezra Kanoho of Lihu’e, many people have suggested to Kouchi that he run for council, Kouchi said.

Kouchi served on the County Council for 20 years, including several terms as council chair.

Anyway, Kouchi said, with staggered three-year terms for directors, there is a KIUC board election held every year, and if his schedule gets lighter, he might consider returning.

“I’ve enjoyed the work at KIUC. I think the utility has done great things for the people of Kaua’i,” said Kouchi, adding that the people at KIUC he has had the chance to work with are “fantastic professionals.”

Susan Stayton, who works for the computer firm Rare & Dear, Inc., near Kalaheo, announced earlier during a KIUC board meeting that she has decided not to seek re-election.

Gardiner, who took an idea printed in the Kauai Business Report by then-publisher Peter McClaran and ran with it, that idea being to orchestrate a citizen purchase of KE and convert it to a nonprofit co-op, has mixed emotions about leaving the board, but feels he leaves KIUC in good hands from top to bottom.

He said he has “extreme confidence” in KIUC directors, managers and staff, and said, “of course there is,” when asked if there are mixed emotions about leaving the KIUC board.

“I think I need to spend a little bit of time with that,” he said of his involvement with 19 visitor publications on the Mainland patterned after his successful 101 Things to Do on Kauai magazine that he sold to leaders of Gannett, Inc.

He has been involved with KIUC matters for six years, orchestrating from a board room in the Haleko Building he owns on Haleko Road in Lihu’e the purchase of KE from Connecticut-based Citizens Communications, and the transformation of the investor-owned electric company into a nonprofit cooperative.

In a very short time, KIUC leaders have returned $15 million to members in refunds, and will return $3 million more in March or April; built up $30 million in equity; and have financial results that have exceeded by far even the most ambitious fiscal models set up at the change-over, he said.

“We made a promise to the community, and we over-delivered,” he said, adding that there are over 20 renewable-energy proposals being mulled now by KIUC leaders.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done. Financially, KIUC’s on a very good foundation,” Gardiner said.

About leaving behind H.A. “Dutch” Achenbach, the president and chief executive officer he had a large part in hiring, as well as the six carryover board members and the KIUC staff, he said, “I believe they’ll be fine.”

The six remaining board members are all certified and accredited as cooperative directors, and the three new board members will be required to get certified and accredited as well, he explained.

“There’s excellent management in place, and a great cadre of professional employees. Put that all together and it says ‘winning team,'” Gardiner said.

The new directors, like the existing ones were, will be elected by a majority of the members, in a democratic election next month, he said.

“A desire to serve is a big thing,” because being a KIUC director is a time-consuming chore, he said from experience.

Gardiner said he will never forget those Kauaians on the founding board, and all the time and effort they put in without compensation, to work to convert KE to KIUC. “Their dedication and work will always be cherished, and never forgotten.”

And, as Kouchi pointed out, there are board elections every year, and it would surprise no one to discover Gardiner putting his hat back in the ring.

Looking forward, there are seven candidates for the three board seats being vacated next month. Carol Bain of Puhi and retired Judge Alfred Laureta of Wailua were nominated by members of a nominating committee last month.

Those nominated by gathering 35 signatures of members on member petitions are (alphabetically): Derek S.K. Kawakami, Ben Lizama Jr., Craig H. Maas, Dane K. Oda and Linda J. Saloka-Pasadava.

Kouchi also had been nominated by members of the nominating committee, before deciding recently to withdraw from consideration.

A director is one of nine elected representatives of the members of KIUC who collectively constitute the board of directors, according to the KIUC bylaws.

Members of the board govern the business and affairs of KIUC, and are generally concerned with the broad courses of action to be followed by the utility, and not involved in the day-to-day utility operations, the bylaws state.

Members should look for their ballots in the mail in late February. For more information, see the Web site, www.kiuc.coop, or contact KIUC’s election hotline at 246-4378.

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