KIUC hopefuls take to the stump

Having board members work together and make wise decisions, opening up the operation of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative to the public and finding alternative energy technologies to reduce Kaua’i’s dependence on fossil fuels are key goals that can make the cooperative more successful, if reached.

That was what six of seven KIUC board candidates pointed to during a forum held at the Kauai Veterans Center last night.

Voicing their views before more than 60 audience members were Carol Bain, Derek Kawakami, retired federal Judge Alfred Laureta, Ben Lizama Jr., Craig Maas and Linda Saloka-Pasadava.

Only Dane Oda, a seventh candidate for the board, didn’t attend the meeting, citing a previous obligation he needed to tend to.

The gathering was sponsored by The Garden Island and Apollo Kauai, an organization whose goal is to promote energy efficiency and conservation.

The event was aimed at enlightening the public on the qualifications of the candidates and to allow them to explain their viewpoints on why they would be good board members.

The seven candidates are vying for three seats on the KIUC board of directors that will be vacated by board chairman Gregg Gardiner, who has been considered the driving force behind the purchase of the non-profit cooperative; vice-chairman Ron Kouchi, a former chairman of the Kaua’i County Council and councilman for some 20 years; and Susan Stayton, who works for the computer firm of Rare & Dear, near Kalaheo.

The terms of all three incumbents expire this month and all three decided not to run.

On the question of why they were running, the candidates offered the following reasons:

  • Solaka-Pasadava said, “We should band together and figure out a solution for our island.”
  • Maas said the biggest change in the utility is that members have more say in the running of it, and that as a board member, he would be in a position to find alternative energy sources to benefit the island in the future. Currently, more than 90 percent of Kaua’i’s power is generated by diesel-powered generators.
  • Lizama said he has worked in the power generation and maintenance area for 30 to 40 years, serving four water districts in California and interfacing with boards representing the water districts.
  • Laureta said that he is seeking election without a predeter-mined agenda and that he will use his experience as a federal and state judge of 22 years and time spent with a slew of Hawai’i state boards and commissions to help the KIUC board, should he be elected, make the right energy decisions for Kaua’i.
  • Kawakami said that though he was born on the Big Island, he was raised on Kaua’i, and wants to serve as a board member as a way to “give back to the community.” He said he wants to represent the voice of another generation, that of folks between the ages of 18 to 35.
  • Bain said she is a sincere candidate and has been a business owner since 1986. She advocates giving KIUC members more access to information about the utility’s operation, and said that can be accomplished by revising the bylaws.

The seven candidates are running for three-year seats on a nine-member body responsible for the governance — not the day-to-day operation — of KIUC.

The new directors will be elected by a majority of the utility’s members.

Bain, a resident of Puhi, and Laureta, a resident of Wailua, were nominated to run by members of a nominating committee in January.

Kawakami, Lizama , Maas, Oda and Saloka-Pasadava were nominated through the gathering of 35 petition signatures.

The election ballots have been mailed out to residents, and the deadline for returning the ballot to KIUC is 4 p.m. on March 18.

Also on the ballot are two proposed changes in the bylaws governing KIUC.

One calls for amending the bylaws to allow members to vote either at a board meeting or vote without attending a meeting as long as a written vote has been authorized by the board of directors.

The other calls for elimination of staggered terms for board members who were elected in 2003.

The seven candidates vying for the board seats have these experiences and advocate various platforms:

  • Bain, who has a master’s degree in educational communications and technology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, has taught communications and journalism classes at the Kauai Community College;
  • Kawakami has pledged to listen to KIUC members. He has said he wants to make decisions that will be in the best interest of the island and its residents.

Kawakami is the assistant operations manager for Big Save Inc. and is a campaign co-chairman for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawai’i).

Kawakami has a four-year degree in business management from Chaminade University.

  • Laureta served as federal judge in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and as a Hawai’i state judge on O’ahu and Kaua’i for a total of 22 years before retiring.

He is the first American of Filipino ancestry to serve as a federal judge. Laureta says Kaua’i is his home now.

  • Lizama serves on the Kaua’i County Board of Review, and worked as an electrical engineering supervisor for 22 years.

He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly State University, and is a graduate of Saint Louis High School on O’ahu.

  • Maas has been self-employed in the real estate and financial services fields since 1982.

He is currently a member of the board for “Circle of Light,” a nonprofit organization on Kaua’i that helps improve the life of island children.

Maas graduated from Pepperdine University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree.

  • Oda said he wants to focus on fiscal responsibility, communication, and renewable energy projects and enhance benefits of cooperative membership.

Oda has served as a board member of the Hawaii Paroling Authority and was a sergeant with the Kaua’i Police Department.

Oda also has been an instructor at Kaua’i Community College.

  • Saloka-Pasadava said she wants to contribute positive ideas to support KIUC’s goal of advancing the island’s strategies on the generation of electricity and its use.

A business owner, she also serves as a trustee with the Kaua’i Museum, and works as an instructor at Kaua’i Community College.

She also is a law school graduate, but doesn’t practice in Hawai’i.

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