Council remembers Baptiste

The Kaua‘i County Council yesterday at the Historic County Building started its regular meeting with a moment of silence for Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who died Sunday at Wilcox Memorial Hospital after an apparent cardiac arrest at his Wailua home.

With a black ribbon hung in his honor under the county seal inside Council Chambers, the local lawmakers were emotional as they reflected on the loss and conveyed their sympathies to the Baptiste family.

Acting Mayor Gary Heu, who served as Baptiste’s administrative assistant, sat in the seats for the public and sobbed as the council members shared their memories.

“When there were times of crisis, we worked hard together; when times of happiness, we laughed together; when times of sorrow, we comforted each other,” Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing said. “So now in this difficult time, we take comfort in remembering Bryan, not just for his public service … but also as a good man and a true son of Kaua‘i.”

Baptiste, 52, was a member of the seven-person council from 1996 to 2002 before he was elected mayor. It was the council’s first meeting since the mayor’s death.

“I think all of us are dealing with feelings of shock and grief and loss,” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said. “The job of all of us is to carry on the spirit of Bryan Baptiste.”

Councilman Jay Furfaro, whose wife is Baptiste’s first cousin, said he knew the mayor for 30 years.

“He had great creativity and sensitivity … with his artistic background with his floral business,” he said. “He was a skillful leader, a wonderful father … I’m expressing my love to his family.”

The Republican mayor, who was in his second term, created an administration based on values of cherishing one another, Furfaro said.

“He was very keen on being able to listen to the issues, but also could influence and change your thinking on something that was for the betterment of the entire island,” he said.

Councilman Tim Bynum, who met Baptiste 14 years ago at the convention hall and later served for three years in his administration, said he is still in shock.

“The loss to our island is huge,” he said. “I’m honored to have known him.”

Council members Ron Kouchi, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and Mel Rapozo’s absences from the meeting were excused.

The council made no decisions about the succession of the mayor.

The county charter says “in the event of a vacancy in the office of the mayor, the council shall select, by majority vote, one of its members as mayor to serve until the next general election and assumption of office in December by the person elected mayor.”

The council is working with the County Attorney’s Office to ensure a thorough understanding of this process before setting a date to discuss the matter and make a decision, Asing said.

It is still a mourning period and there will be plenty of time later to settle matters related to succession, Heu said.

Yukimura, who served as mayor from 1988 to 1994, said she agrees the decision should not be rushed.

Bynum said whomever is selected to fill in the interim should allow the mayor’s initiatives currently in the works to proceed and avoid using the position to make dramatic changes.

Iseri-Carvalho, who is running for county prosecutor, has said Asing has seniority and is well-qualified to serve as mayor.

Rapozo has told media outlets that he supports Asing for the job, but is interested in the position if the chair does not want it.

The filing deadline to run for office in the Nov. 4 election is July 22.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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