Kaua‘i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura officially declared her candidacy for mayor yesterday afternoon at the Historic County Building.
“I do so with humility, knowing what an extraordinary leader Mayor Baptiste was,” she said. “The mayor always had a sense of urgency and a need to get the job done for the benefit of Kaua‘i. I share that same desire because these issues affect the daily lives of all of us.”
Yukimura, who has 30 years of public service under her belt, served as Kauai’s mayor from 1988 to 1994. She was a councilwoman in the late 1970s and returned to a seat there in 2002, the same year Baptiste was elected to his first term as mayor.
Baptiste, 52, died June 22 after suffering cardiac arrest while at home in Wailua recovering from heart bypass surgery.
A special mayoral vacancy election will be held in conjunction with the primary election on Sept. 20 and the general election on Nov. 4. The term will be for the final two years left on Baptiste’s second term in office.
The council on Monday unanimously appointed its chair, Bill “Kaipo” Asing, as interim mayor. He will serve in that capacity for the next five months after he resigns from the council and takes the oath of office. That timetable has not yet been determined.
Yukimura, an attorney, was born and raised on Kaua‘i. The 58-year-old Lihu‘e resident said she has worked on local issues — which include solid waste, housing, preservation of agricultural lands, stadium lights, park maintenance and expansion and rapidly rising gasoline and electricity prices — her entire adult life.
“Mayor Baptiste was working on these issues and many more,” Yukimura said. “If we stand in his vision of a community working together, we can resolve these issues and create a good future together.”
Friends, family and supporters filled the Council Chambers for the noon press conference where she made the announcement.
Yukimura has a record on the council and as mayor for pushing forward initiatives that foster island sustainability. After Hurricane ‘Iniki ravaged the island in 1992, she said she started Kaua‘i’s first recycling and compost complex.
She also initiated the island’s first public transportation system, The Kaua‘i Bus. What began as a Lihu‘e to Kapa‘a route has grown into an islandwide system.
“Today, it is helping residents save money on a daily basis as the price of gas nears $5 a gallon,” she said.
If elected mayor, she said she would implement an integrated solid waste management plan and institute impact fees to force developers to pay a fair share of the impact they have on communities.
“We missed years of impact fees because we didn’t implement that study,” she said.
She said she would also update old plans, such as the Koloa-Po‘ipu development plan.
“But just doing plans alone won’t solve our problems,” she said.
Yukimura said she would continue her theme of open government. She noted how the real property tax board’s meetings became open to the public under her administration.
She said she would also advocate a policy to release legal opinions to the public where appropriate.
“My goal is to have county attorney opinions released when no privacy or liability issues are at stake,” she said. “It’s important for the public to have an understanding of the legal framework upon which we make our decisions.”
Yukimura said as mayor she would bring together different sides to craft solutions to problems, such as how to decide when, if and how the Hawaii Superferry should return to the Garden Isle.
The passenger-vehicle catamaran put service between O‘ahu and Kaua‘i on hold after protesters blocked its entrance to Nawiliwili Harbor on its second-ever run to the Garden Isle last August.
She said there has been no attempt under the company’s new president to reach out to her as a council member to address this issue.
Yukimura said she backed most of the mayor’s projects, even when the council was divided. For instance, the Ka Leo community outreach program, the county’s anti-drug program, rebuilding Olohena Bridge and the coastal path.
“It is a joy when public officials find common ground and work together to produce good results and improve services to the community,” she said. “My decision to run has not been an easy one, but I asked myself, ‘How can I best serve Kaua‘i?’”
Her past experience in the mayor’s office, judgment and record proves her ability to lead the county in the right direction and develop and improve day-to-day government operations, she said.
As an example, she said when she became mayor the county had no computerization. Within a year, her finance director uncovered a $1.3 million embezzlement.
“By the time I left office, all our financial operations had been computerized with proper checks and balances in place and the basic framework for the county’s information technology system was established,” she said.
The work that lies ahead will take a united community and a partnership with experienced, dedicated leadership, she said.
Yukimura unofficially announced her intent to enter the mayoral race during the meeting to select an interim mayor on Monday.
“The leaders we choose in the next election will make decisions that will set the course of this island for years to come,” she said. “Steady, clear, experienced leadership that continues and builds upon Mayor Baptiste’s legacy of aloha and kuleana is what I offer.”
For more information, visit www.joannyukimura.com
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or email@example.com