Esaki in as KIUC board chair

LIHU‘E — Alfred Laureta was the only new member of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board to get a committee chairmanship at the new board’s first meeting yesterday afternoon.

He was unanimously elected to serve as chair of the International Committee.

Dennis Esaki, owner and operator of Esaki Surveying & Mapping Inc., was unanimously elected and sworn in as the new chair of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors.

He replaces Gregg Gardiner, the driving force behind purchasing the for-profit Kauai Electric and turning it into the nonprofit co-op.

Dee Crowell was elected first vice chairman, replacing his long-time friend Ron Kouchi, who like Gardiner decided not to run for re-election.

Peter Yukimura is second vice chair, Ray Paler is secretary, and Phil Tacbian is treasurer.

Yukimura chairs the Finance & Audit and Member Relations committees, Paler is Policy Committee chair, Crowell chairs the Strategic Planning Committee, and Tacbian leads the Governmental Relations Committee.

Esaki says he already sees strong members across the new board, which also includes carryover member Jim Mayfield and new members Dane Oda and Derek Kawakami.

“We got a good board here,” Esaki said, with “no private agendas.”

Asked about an absence of women on the board, Esaki said he “would welcome any women if members would choose so,” and that “it’s up to the voters.”

Esaki said the 24-percent voter turnout for Saturday’s election of three new board members to three-year terms may seem low by Kaua‘i governmental-election standards, but compared to other co-op elections, even with the week’s inclement weather, the Kaua‘i turnout was good.

Though solid data is not available from all other co-ops, normally co-op elections on the Mainland draw only around 12 percent to 16 percent of the eligible members, KIUC officials said.

Formally and informally, Esaki thanked the former board members (Gardiner, Kouchi and Susan Stayton were all present to see their successors sworn in), and congratulated the new board members.

“I vow to work together with board members and the CEO (H.A. “Dutch” Achenbach) for the best good of KIUC,” Esaki said.

He said the three new board members will be getting required training to get them “up to speed in a hurry.”

Gardiner called yesterday’s transition “bittersweet.”

“Keep in mind there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” Achenbach told the board members.

During the president’s report phase of the board meeting at the KIUC headquarters conference room in the Hana Kukui Building in Kukui Grove Village West, in Lihu‘e, Achenbach had words of high praise for members of the KIUC crews working to keep the power on, or restore it, after last week’s flash flooding in Kilauea and torrential rains all across the island.

“Our boys have been out there day and night to keep the lights on.” Whether they are in production, distribution, transmission, member services, engineering, or any other department, “I salute them all. They’ve done a marvelous job. It was a great job,” Achenbach said.

Brad Rockwell, KIUC production manager, said that the number of power poles that went down during last Tuesday morning’s flash flood could easily have triggered an island-wide blackout, but because of changes that have already been made based on recommendations from consultants conducting a system-wide stability study, only a few customers lost power, and that no load-shedding needed to be done as a result of the damage done by the flooding.

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