Mason Chock selected for council seat

LIHUE — Mason Chock, the president of outdoor experiential education company Kupu Ae: Kauai Team Challenge, was appointed Friday by the Kauai County Council to fill a vacant seat on the seven-member board.

“It’s just an honor to see the amount of responses that I’ve had from the community to support this process — to support Kauai — and I hope that is an indication that we are moving in a positive direction,” Chock said after his appointment. “I look forward to serving in the best capacity.”

His appointment, secured by a 4-2 ballot vote by the council, came one day after the governing body voted to recess a special meeting on Bill 2491 until today, ensuring that a new council member would vote on the measure.

The council will meet at 11 a.m. today at the Historic County Building to vote on overriding Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.’s veto.

Chock declined to say how he’ll vote.

“I’ve got to have faith that whatever Ke Akua wants to happen here, whatever feels right, will guide me to the right decision,” he said.

The vacancy was created Nov. 1 after former councilwoman Nadine Nakamura was officially sworn in as the county’s new managing director.

“People know that this move by the council to get the seventh person in there for a particular vote and get action around this bill can be looked upon as manipulative, and I wouldn’t disagree,” Chock said. “However, I come in with a clear conscience knowing what my kuleana is and knowing that I have a decision to make.”

At the beginning of Friday’s meeting, 18 people were named as contenders for the vacant seat, including Chock, former Mayor Kaipo Asing, former Councilmember KipuKai Kualii and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Director Pat Gegen.

The list dwindled down to two finalists — Kualii and Chock — who were nominated by Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and JoAnn Yukimura, respectively, following a nearly three-hour executive session.

“This has been a week of suspenseful moments, including right now,” Yukimura said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to look at. It comes down to, for me anyway, who can make the best decision for the common good.”

Rapozo and Councilman Ross Kagawa threw their support behind Kualii, who came in eighth in the last election cycle, citing his prior council experience and his ability to tackle tough decisions and fiscal issues.

“Mr. Kualii and I don’t agree on everything,” Rapozo said. “We don’t, but that’s not what this is all about. This isn’t about picking somebody that’s going to be an ally. It’s about picking someone who is going to be an asset to this team and represent the County of Kauai.”

Yukimura and Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser, however, voiced their support for Chock, who served as a county fireman for 11 years before taking on several leadership roles in the community.

“What a week it has been and it’s not over yet,” Bynum said. “Through all of these days, there’s this part of me that’s just so excited about the democracy on Kauai — about this groundswell of engagement and involvement.”

To avoid what could have been a deadlock vote and passing the council’s appointment powers to the mayor, Council Chair Jay Furfaro cast his vote for Chock but not before pledging his future support for Kualii.

“I guess being the one who indicates whether this decision is a 3-3 vote, which then goes to the mayor for him to select a replacement, concerns me because I want to make sure that decision stays at this table,” he said. “I can’t end today’s session with a 3-3 deadlock vote going to the mayor.”

Kualii, who pledged to support Chock, said he was disappointed they didn’t honor the votes from the last election.

“I had a lot of hope right until the end but it is what it is and the next election is not too far away,” Kualii said. “But I know Mason will do a good job — he has some of the same progressive values that I have.”

Had he been appointed to the council, Kualii said he would have likely voted in silence on Bill 2491 today “to honor the majority of the council” — a move that would have allowed the override of Carvalho’s veto to pass.

With a background in leadership development, Chock said he has always been able to effect change from the outside looking in through a number of roles he has had over the years.

It is a path he chose after retiring from the Kauai Fire Department in 2005.

“I vowed to myself that I would work from the outside in because I saw the bureaucracy within it and how hard it is to make some change occur,” Chock explained. “The reason why I’m here is because I think there may be a shift happening and I need to step up and help that shift make its way.”

Chock said he wants to empower people outside of his council role and bring a sense of consistency and alignment to board.

“The only way that we really will solve our issues is if people do what they’re continuing to do but learn how to do it better,” he said. “What that means is we need to continue to expect that we’re going to disagree and love each other through that process and that we’re going to sit at the table and move toward something bigger and better but that only comes through some heartache and pain. But at the end of that heartache and pain we still love each other.”

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.

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