Talk Story: Regina Carvalho

When Regina Carvalho said “M is for mother” during her remarks at the Kauai Filipino Ladies Club Women in Red luncheon, the phrase was immediately embraced by the guests.

Following the keynote remarks by Carvalho, ladies murmured the phrase among themselves, noting how they were taking that home with them.

Regina and her husband, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., were guests during the recent luncheon, one of the signature events hosted by the Kauai Filipino Ladies Club.

While her husband is a prominent presence around the island, it was Regina’s message that resonated with the luncheon crowd.

The Garden Island caught up with the mayor’s better half recently to talk about women empowerment in the work place, what it’s like being married to the mayor and a lot more.

TGI: Can you elaborate on the “M is for mother” phrase, which created such an enthusiastic response from the audience?

Regina Carvalho: Oh! I was speaking about women and empowerment, and the importance of teaching our boys early on.

When my sons would grumble with me and say, “Are we talking about women power again?” I would give them examples. You see, my sons needed to know that M is for mother, not for maid … and that one day their wives would thank me that they knew how to fold clothes and do the dishes. Their wives should be their partners in life.

I have a few thoughts about women. How many women knew March is women’s history month? The facts are that we still outnumber men in our country. Yet we are underrepresented in the corporate world and in government leadership positions at our national and state levels.

We’re still behind in wages. Don’t get me wrong, strides are being made, but at a snail’s pace. Really, we only have ourselves to blame. Just imagine if women worked together to empower one another instead competing against each other. I know a number of educated women that gave up careers for family. Do men have to do that? Could there or would there be more businesses that supported on-site child care if more women lead from the top? Just imagine the possibilities.

TGI: What kind of obligations come from being married to the mayor of Kauai?

RC: I believe my No. 1 obligation is to be a supportive partner. To be honest and real and to remind Bernard that at the end of the day when the tough decisions are made, I am here for him.

I feel obligated to be understanding of the hours he puts in, I know I am married to a good man with a big heart who loves Kauai and its people but will work 24/7 … My other obligation is to keep our family informed and together, there are times our adult children need their dad’s advice. But for the most part, I hold down the family unit.

TGI: How do you balance all of the events in your busy life — being a nurse, mother of three, grandmother, and wife of the mayor?

RC: I am constantly trying to find balance, it’s really teamwork and having a supportive family — all of us helping each other.

My daughter leaves early for work at the Koloa Elementary School so Bernard helps with the grandchildren, getting things going in the morning. He brings them to me in the mornings when I’m getting off work and I hurry back to Anahola to take my granddaughter to preschool.

I work as a full-time RN at Wilcox on the night shift, I’m grateful that I am in a profession that works 12-hour shifts, three days a week. My schedule is spread out, which allows me flexibility.

Bernard’s executive secretary keeps me posted on the schedule at least two weeks at a time, but it can always change. I attend as many events as I am able to with Bernard.

My 92-year-old mother also lives with us; she has dementia, and my daughter helps take care of her when we are out of town. I have a sister who is a flight attendant who stays at the Marriott when she comes into town and gives me some respite when she spends time with Mom.

If I have meetings, I have to plan ahead of time. Then, I take my grandson to his dad’s work at Kauai Grower’s, his family’s business.

It wouldn’t be possible without each of us working together and it all starts at home.

TGI: What does it feel like to be “Kauai’s first lady?”

RC: Well, to be honest, I really don’t see myself in those terms.

When Bernard was elected mayor, I had no concept of how his position would affect my life. I knew that I was here before, during, and would be here after he is mayor. He could go it alone and we’d grow apart, or we could continue our life together in support of one another sharing his new role.

I had to learn early on to develop a tough skin and realize that no matter how hard you work, an elected official will never please everyone, that people can be cruel, the majority are not.

I sure am glad we have a strong faith foundation. I also know that God has a plan for all of us, and he wouldn’t have given him this assignment if it wasn’t part of his plan.

From the very beginning Bernard told me to “just be yourself.” I have always been involved in the community before moving to Kauai from California and I have a real interest in knowing what’s happening. I have a sincere desire to stay informed and engaged. Whether it was being a homeroom teacher, team mom, Kauai PTSA district rep, PCNC, on the Kawaihau Little League Board, or involved in St. Catherine’s Church, and now on The KEO executive board, Committee on the Status of Women, and Founder of Women of Inspiration.

I would continue to be me. When I attend community meetings around the island, it’s because I want to be there.

As “Kauai’s first lady,” I feel blessed and am grateful to live in a such a beautiful place. I have met so many good people that are making a difference and it’s so great to see what’s possible.

TGI: During your remarks at the Kauai Filipino Women’s Club Ladies in Red event, you mentioned Up With People. How did you get involved and what was the impact on your life? Were there other Kauai people who were involved?

RC: My sister invited me to see a show one of her classmates was on tour with Up With People. I really didn’t know anything about Up with People, but I was inspired by these young performers.

The show took place on a summer’s evening at the beautiful Rancho Bernardo Golf Course. At the end of the show, people were invited to interview to join the cast. I stayed and had two interviews by a couple of cast members, then a staff member.

Thousands of people apply every year and a month later, I received my acceptance letter. I was officially a young ambassador of hope representing my community of Oceanside, California.

Highlights of my tour were performing for the United Nations at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the pope while in Rome, Italy, and meeting the presidents of Germany and Canada. We had teas with ambassadors and performed in nursing homes, institutions, prisons, and also various tours with numerous companies.

We also did many community projects. It was truly a year of giving with most days planned out from morning to night.

The impact on my life was amazing. I was to able to see how people live all over the world, and I gained a greater respect of culture, our differences and similarities. I learned the places are people, not just places, and that no matter what a person does, we are all just people, we all beat with one heart, and all members of the human race. It’s my belief that this is the kind of education all students need to gain a better understanding of in our world. I began to see people like books, all with different covers, with unique stories to share.

On Kauai, I know of two other Up With People alumni — Councilman Kipukai Kualii, and businessman Kamika Smith.

TGI: What kind of advice would you give to young people of Kauai today?

RC: Kauai is such a beautiful place to be from, my advice to the young people of today would be to get involved, stay informed, be respectful, share your ideas with those that can help you. Some words of wisdom, which I find inspiring — “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”

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