Familiar names win in KIUC vote

LIHUE — Two incumbents and a former member won seats to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors on Saturday.

Dennis M. Esaki, Karen Baldwin and Patrick Gegen outpaced the eight-candidate field in the election that started Feb. 19.

“I want to thank the members for their confidence in me,” said Esaki, who earned the most votes with 3,602. “I really care about the co-op. I want to be on the right path, and we seem to be doing good.”

Esaki, a resident of Kapaa and owner of Esaki Surveying, is a former chairman of the KIUC board and a founding board member of the cooperative in 2002.

Esaki said that moving forward, the board will have to decide what it wants to do with equity that the co-op has built up, and how those funds will affect paying members.

“We build up the margins, it’s in the co-op under the members,” he said. “We have different issues popping up.”

The board of directors governs KIUC business, strategic planning and policies.

Baldwin, an incumbent who won her second three-year term, gathered the second-most votes with 2,582.

She said Saturday that she was grateful for the nod of support from co-op members.

Baldwin said while photovoltaic projects have made a big impact on the island’s energy use so far, more work needs to be done, such as educating users on how to reduce energy use even more.

“How to do we get the next 50 percent of the renewable energy? The first 50 percent was low-hanging fruit,” she said. “How do we cut down on the amount (of energy) wanted? Can we reduce the demand side? That is what we need to look at that — and it’s hard on an island.”

Education will be a big part of it, said the Prince-ville resident and estate attorney.

“Some of it is just, ‘Oh, if I need to replace this light bulb with that one, I’ll save 80 percent,” she said.

Incumbent Gegen, principal with P.S. Gegen Consulting, was re-elected with 1,849 votes. He won his first term to the board three years ago.

Gegen outpaced fourth-place finisher Jan Kimura by more than 1,000 votes.

“I’m thrilled to be back on the KIUC board,” Gegen said. “I’m very grateful and honored to have this opportunity for another 3 years and look forward to continuing to help KIUC maintain its leadership in pursuing renewables while still working to reduce members’ bills.”

Kimura finished with 1,707 votes. Harold J. Dias Jr. finished fifth with 1,619; Stewart “Stu” V. Burley had 1,306; Dennis Rowley had 1,209; and William D. Peterson rounded out the field with 1,098 votes.

KIUC mailed 25,309 ballots and got a turnout of 21.92 percent.

While there were three available director slots to fill, not all members chose to exercise all three votes on their ballot, so the number of votes may not equal the total number of ballots received, KIUC stated in a release.

The election was conducted by Merriman River Group, a California-based election management firm.

The newly elected board members will be inaugurated at 11 a.m. March 24 in the main conference room at the KIUC office.

The board will hold its regularly scheduled meeting at 12:30 p.m.

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Tom Hasslinger, managing editor, can be reached at 245-0427 or thasslinger@thegardenisland.com.

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