2 open seats at KIUC

The Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors heads into next week’s regular meeting short two members, following Derek Kawakami’s resignation Tuesday to focus on a bid for County Council this fall.

Kawakami, the board’s youngest member, leaves two years into his three-year term after making his candidacy official earlier this month.

“My passion for the greater good of our island at this critical point has given me an overwhelming desire to serve our island on a broader scale,” he said.

The announcement comes less than a month after former board member Alfred Laureta, 84, resigned due to health concerns. That news sparked a community push to see the vacancy filled by renewable energy advocate Ben Sullivan, the first runner-up in the March elections, which returned three incumbents to their seats.

Chair Dennis Esaki told The Garden Island yesterday that the board plans to discuss the filling of two seats at its May 27 meeting.

The nine-person group may select a “qualified candidate” by majority vote or keep the seat vacant, according to Board Policy 20.

The policy further states that due to the expense and time required to train new board members, it is considered “efficient” to look to former members to fill the spot, so long as it avoids the appearance of “favoritism.”

The remainder of both directors’ terms is now down to about 10 months.

At the last regular meeting on April 22, nine community members expressed their desire that the board strongly consider Sullivan given his standing in the recent election.

Sullivan, who has challenged KIUC’s move toward renewables as not aggressive enough, said yesterday he hopes to be considered.

He pointed to runaway oil prices as a major concern for Kaua‘i’s utility. Oil closed at $133.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, though prices rose as high as $135.04 in after-hours electronic trading, according to Associated Press reports.

“We need to call this what it is — it’s a crisis — and that’s not being done,” said Sullivan.

Kawakami, who chaired the Strategic Planning Committee, played a key role in creating the current strategic plan that calls for 50 percent renewable energy production by 2023.

According to Esaki, Kawakami was a “moving force” on the board.

“He came in with an open mind and is a quick learner,” Esaki said. “He fights for what he believes is right.”

During his tenure Kawakami served as second vice chair and sat on the Executive and Government Relations/Legislative Affairs committees.

“Derek Kawakami served KIUC’s members and employees well,” Randy Hee, KIUC president and chief executive, said. “We wish him well in his campaign for a County Council seat.”

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com

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