Candidate by petition: Ken Stokes

LIHU‘E — With six small-scale hydroelectric projects, a 12-megawatt solar farm and an island-wide rollout of smart meters on the horizon, it’s arguably the most significant time in the history of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative.

Nine co-op members are competing for three three-year seats on the board of directors.

KIUC will mail member ballots on Monday. The deadline for members to cast their votes is March 24.

To help introduce these candidates to the community, The Garden Island posed six questions to each. A different candidate’s response have been published each day since Feb. 23.

A co-op member becomes a candidate after being selected by the KIUC Nominating Committee or by submitting a petition with 35 members’ signatures.

In addition to second-term incumbents Steve Rapozo and Stewart “Stu” Burley, the nominating committee selected Lesther Calipjo, Joel Guy and Calvin Murashige for the ballot.

Candidates running by member petition include Gegen, Joanne Georgi, Ken Stokes and Karen Baldwin.

TGI requested that the responses be limited to 100 words.

Ken Stokes’ answers TGI’s questions:

Q: Why are you running for a seat on the board of directors?

A: Many members who helped elect (former board director) Ben Sullivan three years ago have pushed me to run again, because Ben’s “green” perspective needs to be reinforced now that he has resigned. I first ran with Ben four years ago, and we did well against the entrenched co-op leadership. This year, the incumbents are not that strong, and I hope we can elect strong community leaders to all three seats. I will continue contributing to the ongoing conversation about our island’s transition to sustainability — as a blogger, teacher and leader in my neighborhood association — both inside and outside the boardroom.

Q: Why do you believe you are the best choice for the board?

A: I have a long history of community leadership with Kaua‘i nonprofits, community service groups and neighborhood associations in Lihu‘e, Kapa‘a and Hanalei. I’m also a strategic thinker and sustainability advisor and for the past 10 years, I have been working closely with executives in some of Hawai‘i’s largest corporations and most influential community groups on our island’s daunting sustainability challenges. I’m also intimately familiar with KIUC’s financials and operations and have maintained close contact with key staff and directors since the co-op was founded in 2003, so I’m well prepared to step right into this key decision-making role.

Q: What should KIUC do to improve its services to members?

A: KIUC must ask us first and seek broad community input before making major decisions. I strongly supported the initial vote against the FFP (Free Flow Power) contract by directors Sullivan, TenBruggencate and Bain on the grounds that hydro was being “rammed down the community’s throat.” Much unnecessary diversion and divisiveness could’ve been avoided if their viewpoint had prevailed, before the hydro fiasco began. Our utility badly bungled this, and they’re doing it again with smart meters, since the decision to proceed has already been made. This is how private corporations behave — not co-ops — and I want to help change this.

Q: What should KIUC do to help members reduce energy costs?

A: I support increased incentives and program support for energy efficiency and conservation initiatives, as proposed by director Sullivan at his last meeting this past December. The entrenched board majority dismissed his proposals without discussion, claiming there was no program ready for added funding. In my view, this gets the board’s budget-making powers exactly backwards, since there will be no program development until funds are allocated. KIUC is woefully behind Hawai‘i’s other island utilities in this area, and nothing is more important than getting a lot smarter about how we use energy.

Q: If you could change one thing about the co-op, what would it be?

A: For too long, our co-op leadership has gone along with “whatever management recommends.” This is not simply an abdication of directors’ responsibility for due diligence; it also places too much of the burden on management to consider and incorporate community viewpoints, since that’s not their strong suit. Worse, the entrenched board majority has denied our best community directors any influence in important committee work. In order for KIUC to run more like a co-op, we need directors who truly represent our community, who will ask tough questions and push harder for community-based solutions — as I would.

Q: Briefly, please describe your advanced education and most significant professional contributions that would be transferable to KIUC.

A: In addition to sustainability advisory work throughout the islands, I currently work closely with the Carvalho administration to help make the county’s operations more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint. I advocate and envision the county partnering with KIUC in a series of sustainable-energy initiatives, and I have been working for several years on forging a more collaborative relationship between these two great public institutions. With a Stanford MBA and a successful career as a strategic planning consultant across North America, I can bring a deep awareness of and solid recommendations for resolving our island’s sustainability challenges.

KIUC will hold a quarterly update meeting to membership at 6 p.m. on March 15 at Kapa‘a Library. For more information, visit www.kiuc.coop.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 251, or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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