Guest Viewpoint – Celebrating similarities, embracing differences

A tireless champion for his beloved Kaua‘i and her people, Mayor Bryan James Baptiste passed away unexpectedly on June 22. Thousands of people on Kaua‘i and throughout the state mourn the loss of this compassionate leader and thoughtful visionary, who has been referred to as “the people’s mayor.”

Baptiste was born Oct. 15, 1955, to parents Anthony C. Baptiste and Eva (Gomez) Baptiste of Kapa‘a. Raised on Kaua‘i, Baptiste graduated from Kapa‘a High School and moved to O‘ahu to attend the University of Hawai‘i.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Baptiste was employed by the Muscular Dystrophy Association as program director from 1978-1979. He subsequently accepted a position on Kaua‘i as station and island manager with Tropical Rent-a-Car and National Car Rental, where he remained until 1985. From 1985-1994, he owned a small floral business, Petals and Passions, in Kapa‘a.

In 1994, Baptiste accepted a position as manager of the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall, where he launched the successful Ho‘olokahi program. A partnership of volunteerism among community, government and business, Ho‘olokahi garnered the support of more than 10,000 volunteers in its first two years to restore, enhance and rebuild community following the ravages of Hurricane ‘Iniki.

In 1996, Baptiste was elected to the Kaua‘i County Council, where he served three terms. As a councilman, he earned much respect for his role in implementing visioning sessions between the council and the administration of then-Mayor Maryanne Kusaka. The visioning initiative was a collaborative process between the administrative and legislative branches of government, which allowed open discussion and a unified effort toward achieving goals and objectives for the people of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

On Dec. 2, 2002, Baptiste took the oath of office to serve the people of Kaua‘i as mayor, and he was re-elected in 2006 for a second term in office. His efforts for the past five years have focused on strengthening Kaua‘i’s communities, creating a bright future for our children and giving each resident of Kaua‘i a voice in county government.

The centerpiece of his administration, the Ka Leo O Kaua‘i program, allowed each of Kaua‘i’s 15 communities to gather regularly to identify their own priorities and projects and enlist the support of county government so that each community could reach a high level of cohesion and self-determination.

Known as an extremely passionate, loyal, caring, thoughtful and generous man with a warm sense of humor, Baptiste devoted his life to service for his family, friends and community. His greatest desire was to see Kaua‘i return to the days of his youth, when neighbors were like family and interactions were always infused with aloha. One of his newest initiatives, which was in progress at the time of his death, had this goal, written by the mayor himself:

“To refocus our community on our blessings and the gift of living here on Kaua‘i to achieve a oneness — a unity of spirit, of action, and of aloha. To embrace our differences and celebrate our similarities.”

Baptiste leaves behind his loving wife, Annette (Asato); his four children Brandon (26), Heather (23), Lauren (20) and Preston (16); and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall on July 6, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A celebration of his life will immediately follow in the Convention Hall auditorium. Aloha attire is suggested. Please note that flower delivery should be arranged for after 7 a.m. that Sunday.

• Kaua‘i County officials contributed this memorial of Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s life.


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