LIHUE — Anybody who has attended Kauai County municipal meetings or watched them on television recently is most likely familiar with Matt Bernabe.
For the past two years, the activist has been a fixture at public meetings. And he’s not reluctant to share his views. Bernabe makes his way confidently to the podium to tackle virtually any topic being discussed by the seven-member council.
“I will not stand by the sidelines,” said the married father of two who can be counted on to offer input on salaries, transportation, emergency services and private development. Bernabe said he has no preconceived notions or political agendas. He merely wants to listen and learn — to make government more efficient.
Nothing is off limits for Bernabe, who filed Friday to run for Kauai County Council.
“Every issue is connected to the people because it’s all connected to the budget,” the Kapaa resident said.
The political newcomer acknowledges he’s no expert on the ins and outs of county government; in fact, he believes that makes him a more viable candidate with wider appeal.
“I want to make a difference through participation,” said the self-proclaimed problem solver. And while Bernabe admits he doesn’t have all the answers, he is always willing to listen to people on every side.
His open-mindedness seems to have boosted his support in local political circles, Bernabe said, even among those who have disagreed with him.
“I’ve got a lot of feedback,” he said. “Since I’ve been speaking out even people who have disagreed with me have literally approached me and asked me to run.”
Bernabe said he waited two years to educate himself before taking the plunge into politics.
Bernabe, 42, is a landscaper and a former cook. He lost his right leg a couple years in an auto accident, but hasn’t let that slow him down. He said his decision to run is personal in nature.
“My involvement in this is really to set an example for my daughters,” he said. “What sets me aside is I don’t have any personal interests; I want to do what’s best for the people of Kauai. I’m not looking for a job — I’m looking to make a difference.”
The last day to file candidate nomination papers with the county is June 7. The last day to register for the primary election is July 14.
The primary election is Aug. 13. All seven council positions will be up for election.