Children changed candidate’s path

First-time Kaua‘i County Council candidate Derek Kawakami said last week that there are certain turning points in life that change the road a person heads down. For him, it was becoming a father.

“Ten years ago I would never have imagined that one day I would be running for public office,” he said. “I guess something happens to you when you become a parent. Instead of focusing on your needs, you suddenly become obligated to this strange-looking thing that makes weird noises and emits strange odors.

“Having children and becoming a father made me look at this world, our nation and our community with a new set of eyes,” Kawakami said. “I realized that my kuleana was not just to care for my children, but also to care for and improve the community they will be raised in.”

Kawakami, who vacated his seat on the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board to run for council, said the “Great Binding Law of the Iroquois Nation” speaks to him very personally. It states, “Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground — the unborn of the future nation.’”

The Kapa‘a resident said he is “obligated and committed” to do all he can for a place and a people that gave him so much.

“Kaua‘i offered me a community where friends and neighbors raise all children as if they were their own,” Kawakami said. “Kaua‘i offered me a culture that respected and honored all ethnicities equally and where all people valued the spirit of Aloha. Kaua‘i offered me the rich history of an unconquerable people surrounded in beauty unmatched on earth. Kaua‘i also offered my family a place to grow and thrive.”

Since the time of his great-grandparents, the candidate said Kaua‘i was a place of economic opportunity and community stewardship.

“This is the Kaua‘i that I want our children to inherit,” he said. “In recent times, some of the best Kaua‘i has to offer has been compromised. This is when the ‘protective dad’ in me came out. I made the tough decision to put down some of my personal passions and pursue the role as a steward of our beloved island as a member of the Kaua‘i County Council.”

As the Big Save businessman deliberates on tough issues that will affect the future generations, he said he also feels the obligation to take care of the needs of those who have come before.

“Our retired kupuna living on fixed incomes are finding that their income is not covering their basic needs,” Kawakami said. “Even their children, who they’ve sacrificed for, can not return to Kaua‘i and survive on their own.”

The candidate said he recognizes the county’s economy is such that even a good job cannot cover the high cost of living.

“Most people are barely getting by on resources that are not running on a parallel plane to the rising cost of goods, housing and services,” he said.

Kawakami said he believes the county will navigate through some rough times in this uncertain economy and will have to differentiate between the county services people want and the county services people need.

“This is one of the first lessons my mother taught me,” he said. “Every time we would go into a store she would ask me, ‘Derek, is this something you want or something need?’ It drove me crazy. I now realize its importance.

“If we are going to make it through these unsettling times together, we are going to have to identify the needs of our people, be frugal in our spending and suppress our desire for instant gratification,” Kawakami said. “What we really need is affordable housing, responsible development that fits the character of our island, sustainability, improved infrastructure and the assurance that our various public and community agencies have the resources necessary to keep our community safe and healthy.”

The candidate, who finished sixth in the primary on Sept. 20, said he wishes he had all the answers.

“What I do have is a desire to serve and give back to the people of Kaua‘i. I have the drive to work hard toward improving the quality of life for all of you and for our children,” Kawakami said. “I have the skills necessary to analyze and identify the problem, research the issues, listen to the people and to make a responsible decision. I will always keep in mind where I came from, and strive to make decisions that keep the best of Kaua‘i intact while meeting the needs of the future generations.”

Kawakami was elected to the KIUC board of directors, where he served as second vice chair to the board, chair of the Strategic Planning and the Nominating committees, and member of the Policy and Government Relations/Legislative Affairs committees.

He also served on the county Charter Review Commission and is a director on the board for Kaua‘i Police Activities League and the board for the Lihu‘e Business Association.

As of Sept. 9, he has been endorsed by HGEA, SHOPO, ILWU, UPW, IBEW Local 1357 and the Hawai‘i Fire Fighters Association.

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

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