More than 100 supporters cheered as county Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho Jr. descended the steps of the Historic County Building after filing to run for mayor, yesterday afternoon.
“The people. That’s where it’s at,” he said. “My strength is in strengthening families.”
The 46-year-old Kaua‘i native said he had planned to run in 2010, but the decision to enter the race was expedited after Mayor Bryan Baptiste unexpectedly died last month.
Among the supporters accompanying him was Annette Baptiste, wife of the late mayor, and her four children.
“This administration has accomplished many things and there is so much more to do in these next 2.5 years,” Carvalho said in a statement. “We face serious economic challenges. People are suffering. Families can’t pay their bills. Businesses are struggling with rising costs.
“I understand the challenges and I want to help,” he said. “I want to use my knowledge and experience to bring people together in this critical time of need.”
The former football star began working for the county in 1985 at an entry level position within the Department of Public Works Recreation Division.
He held various management positions with the county until he was appointed by Baptiste as director of Offices of Community Assistance in December 2002. He oversaw that operation — which included the Housing, Recreation, Elderly Affairs and Transportation Agencies — until he was tapped last year to create the newly formed Parks and Recreation Department.
During his tenure as a member of Baptiste’s administration, Carvalho said he has been responsible for a number of important initiatives.
These include expanding The Kaua‘i Bus service, starting numerous affordable housing projects and leading two internal county task forces for fast-tracking those projects through the permitting process and another that was responsible for the construction of the coastal multi-use path. He has also continued to work with the Hanama‘ulu community to make improvements to Hanama‘ulu Beach Park.
The Parks and Recreation Department was created by charter amendment in the 2006 general election. Carvalho helped develop and implement the organizational plan for the department.
“I’d like to build upon Mayor Baptiste’s initiatives in these areas and others such as renewable energy, improving county customer service and the preservation of open space,” he said.
In addition to working for the county, Carvalho has also held positions in the airline and visitor industry on Kaua‘i.
“I’ve experienced county government from the bottom up and the top down,” he said. “And I have more than 20 years combined experience in the private sector.”
Collaboration is the key to success, he said.
“Government can learn a lot from the private sector,” he said. “I intend to work closely with small business, the visitor industry and other stakeholders in our local economy to overcome these challenges.”
Carvalho graduated from Kapa‘a High School in 1979 and attended the University of Hawai‘i on a full-ride athletic scholarship for football. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in communications and public relations before being drafted by the Miami Dolphins, where he played for two years before “deciding it was time to get married.”
His wife, the former Regina “Gina” Godinez of Oceanside, Calif., was at his side during the campaign event yesterday. They have three children: Bronson, 23, a St. Louis High School graduate who is currently a senior at Alcorn State University in Mississippi; Brennen, 21, a Kamehameha School graduate who attended Portland State University and is currently trying out for the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin; and Brittney, 19, a Kapa‘a High School graduate who just finished her freshman year at Western Oregon University and will be transferring to UH Manoa in the fall.
“I love Kaua‘i,” Carvalho said. “This was my grandparents’ home, my parents’ home, and it’s where I want my children to make their home. Together, we can face the challenges before us to preserve our way of life and all that we cherish.”
His campaign chair, Lenny Rapozo, rallied the crowd behind the campaign slogan “Together, we can.”
His co-chair, Beth Tokioka, who serves as the Office of Economic Development director, said Carvalho will finish the good work Baptiste started and implement his own vision for the island’s future.
Carvalho said he would look at van pools, and park and rides to meet transportation needs. He said he also wants to bring services out to the communities so everything is not centered around Lihu‘e.
“I truly want to look at people’s needs first … and find practical solutions,” he said.
Rapozo said the campaign is “totally grassroots” and supporters must “spread the seed” to help Carvalho win in two months.
Carvalho has been active with many community efforts. They include the State Fatherhood Commission, St. Catherine’s Church member of Pastoral Council and he participates in the music ministry program, Kawaihau District Leadership Coalition, Keanuenue Connection, Kapa‘a High School Parent Teacher Student Association president, Kamehameha Schools Association of Kaua‘i president and St. Catherine’s School Parent Teacher Guild president.
Kaua‘i County Councilman Mel Rapozo was the first to officially enter the mayoral race. He pulled his nomination papers yesterday at the Elections Division.
“It would be a privilege to serve as mayor and make an even greater contribution to this place that’s so precious to all of us,” Carvalho said.
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