Kawakami to leave Legislature

LIHUE — Calling it the easiest decision he has ever made, Kauai Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-Kapaa, announced Thursday he not run for another term in the state House and will instead seek a two-year term on the Kauai Council.

“As a father and a husband, I truly look forward to coming home and spending time with wife, daughter and son,” Kawakami said from Honolulu where the Legislature is in session.

The veteran lawmaker said his decision was based entirely on a desire to spend more time at home with his family, emphasizing that he understands it will take a “110 percent commitment” to be elected to the council.

“I’m not taking anything for granted and wholeheartedly love doing the work of a representative,” Kawakami said. “However, the call to return home and seek a council position has been overwhelming.”

Kawakami said his decision came straight from his heart.

“My children are growing up and I want to spend this precious time closer to family,” he said. “Being back on Kauai full time offers me direct contact with our people and the issues that impact quality of life.”

Senate President Ron Kouchi, representing District 8 in Kauai, said Kawakami will be missed in the Legislature.

“The representative has done an outstanding job serving his constituents,” Sen. Kouchi said.

State Rep. James Tokioka, representing Kauai’s District 15, said Derek Kawakami was like a brother and his absence will be a tremendous loss to the state.

“I have had the privilege and honor to serve with Rep. Derek Kawakami for the last five years. He has been an outstanding representative for District 14 and will be terribly missed by everyone at the State Capitol,” Tokioka said. “I understand how difficult it is for him to be away from his family. He was an integral part of the success of the Kauai delegation. Derek has been a rising star at the State Capitol and I am sure he will be just as valuable if he is fortunate enough to be elected again to the Kauai County Council.”

As a state representative, Kawakami earns a base salary $59,000, plus a travel stipend. Kauai councilmembers earn $56,781, according to the county’s elections office.

Kawakami previously served on the Kauai County Council from 2008-2011. On April 1, 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Kawakami to the Hawaii State House as the member representing the 14th House District.

All seven Kauai Council seats are up for election this year.

If elected to the council, Kawakami said he will seek solutions to traffic, housing, and other concerns that affect Kauai’s families daily.

“While I have decided to serve our community in a different capacity, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fire that burns within me to continue serving the people of Kauai and Niihau to build a brighter future for our keiki and protect and honor our kupuna,” he said in a press release.

Raised on Kauai and a graduate of Kauai High School and Chaminade University, Kawakami has previously served as a Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Board member and County of Kauai Charter Commission member.

In the legislature, Kawakami has served in a number of leadership positions as the Assistant Majority Leader; Vice Chairman of the Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection; Vice Chairman of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and currently serves as the Chair of Economic Development and Business.

He worked to pass HB2626, more commonly known as the Safe Routes to School Bill, which created a funding mechanism to appropriate money to the counties to create safe zones that promote walking and bicycling to school.

Kawakami also collaborated with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to pass HB1993 that makes the act of physical abuse in the presence of a minor a class C felony.

“I want to thank the people of Kauai, Niihau, and the residents of the beautiful 14th District for allowing me to serve you since 2008,” he said.

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