In June of 2015, a year ago, I got up to speak at the county council meeting in regards to proposing a county manager system. That was my very first time. Because I was the first to speak on the subject who actually had experience working under such a system, each of the seven council members had a lot of questions for me.
By the time I sat back down, based on the questions asked, and the responses to my answers, I could pretty much tell which council members would likely support the idea and which would not. In my testimony that day, I admitted in front of the council, and everyone listening, that I was not 100 percent sure that Kauai County was really cut out for a county manager system. I had some doubts, or perhaps just some reservations.
After a few months of paying closer attention to our county’s operations, and mentally comparing it to my previous employment, I realized that a county manager system was, indeed what the people of Kauai needed in order to provide them with improvements in accountability and efficiency.
My previous employment included 30 years for a city under a city manager type of government, the last 14 years of which I was a division manager. A mid-management position.
I eventually became more involved in the issue, attending meetings and discussions. I did contribute to, and participate in the discussions that continued for about a year, although probably not as much as I should have. I particularly enjoyed being involved with three very honorable gentlemen who were quite knowledgeable and all had such unselfish motives for wanting a county manager system for Kauai.
Unlike many of the opponents to the system, these three gentlemen truly care about our island and the people of Kauai. I am speaking of Mr. Walter Lewis, Mr. Ken Taylor and Mr. Glenn Mickens. Everyone on this island owes a debt of gratitude to these fine gentlemen for opening our eyes to the possibilities that lie ahead.
Well, the county manager system has once again been shot down by our county council and by other selfish self- serving opponents. Apparently the leaders that we have put into office to run our government for us, do not feel that we have the right to decide for ourselves, much like our state legislature.
This is exactly one of the reasons why, I initially was not convinced that Kauai was cut out for a county manager system. As long as this same “plantation mentality” exists, not only in the people of this island, but also in the ones they elect to run their government for them, I remain doubtful that a county manager system would change things very much. Imagine these same individuals running everything. Without a mayor to oppose them.
Until such time when we can elect new leaders, all of them that have the courage to really stand up for what they believe and truly have the passion to do what’s right for the island and for the people of Kauai, and know the true meaning of leadership and respect for the people that put them into office, maybe then we’ll be ready for a county government that provides continuity, accountability, transparency, and efficiency.
Larry Arruda is a resident of Kapaa.