Puhi resident Dickie Chang plans to build his political campaign on his friendship with the late Bryan Baptiste. The former mayor’s “visionary” leadership inspired Chang to seek a seat on the Kauai County Council, he said in an interview last week.
“The mayor left a positive impact on why we represent people,” Chang said. “It’s not for ourselves; it’s for the benefit of Kaua‘i. I say that humbly because he was my friend.”
Chang, 49, filed his nomination papers on Thursday with the county Elections Division. The decision, he said, was not easy.
Chang said he realizes that if he is elected on Nov. 4 to serve on the seven-member legislative body that he will be faced with tough decisions.
“A lot of my friends didn’t want me to run because they didn’t want me to harden up and lose some of that happy-go-lucky Dickie Chang,” he said. “But I have a serious side.”
Chang has been a TV reporter for 14 years, now hosting the popular “Wala‘au” community program.
This experience, combined with 30 years working in the visitor industry, has taught him many lessons that he said would benefit him as a council member.
Tourism is a critical part of the economy, he said, noting the pinch residents felt by the departure of two cruise ships.
“In reality, that’s what keeps the engine ticking,” he said. “But there’s no quick fix.”
Chang’s prior work experience, which includes campaign fundraisers for nonprofits, would also help him fulfill the duty every council member shares: identifying the challenges the island faces.
“I have listened tremendously,” he said, noting hundreds of interviews with residents of diverse backgrounds. “I have the contacts to go directly to the source.”
Listening is also something he learned from Baptiste — that, along with bringing aloha back to government. People should not be intimidated when they testify before the council, Chang said.
If elected, Chang said he would make the Council Chambers a more inviting atmosphere. But he also has plans to take care of those who are unable to attend the weekly meetings to provide input on bills.
Many residents feel more comfortable talking story one on one, he said.
“I would be a messenger … a voice for the majority,” Chang said.
The candidate said his experience in the visitor industry sets him apart from the others seeking office.
Chang, who moved to Kaua‘i 21 years ago, grew up in Wahiawa, an old plantation town on O‘ahu.
“I’m a full-on country boy with street smarts,” he said.
Chang ran for council once before in 1992. Hurricane ‘Iniki hit several days before the election, he said, and the incumbents were “rightfully” re-elected.
Despite the defeat, Chang said he found other ways to be part of the recovery effort. He said he booked future business for the Hyatt as part of the later revitalization.
“It’s time to move forward,” Chang said of his decision to enter the race. “There are very different times ahead. It would be easy to sit back and watch and criticize. … This is about putting your feet down for the future.”
The election filing deadline is Tuesday. For more information, visit www.kauai.gov