Tim Bynum, former councilmember, dies at 62

LIHUE — Those who knew Tim Bynum say he was a gentle giant who genuinely cared about the island.

Bynum, who served on the Kauai County Council for four terms, from 2006 to 2014, died Friday at the age of 62.

“Councilmember Tim Bynum was a dedicated public servant who reached out to communities across the island and listened to their concerns,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said Saturday. “He was a champion of recreational projects that offer our residents, from keiki to kupuna, options to be healthier and more active.

“He truly cared about our island and was a great family man,” the mayor continued. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Gini, children and grandchildren.”

During his time on the council, Bynum was known for his dedication to improving the quality of life on Kauai. His accomplishments include establishing the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park and working to build the Ke Ala Hele Makalae bike path.

“No matter how awful people could be to him in politics, he always saw the good or the pain in them, and he let the bad stuff flow off him like water over a duck,” said Lani Kawahara, a former councilmember.

Janice Bond, team leader for AARP, agreed.

“He served the people of Kauai with compassion and foresight,” she said. “He was big on hugs, and I loved his smiles.”

As a councilmember, Bynum was a proponent of the complete-streets resolution, which was passed in an effort to promote safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public-transportation users. He also authored the Plastic Bag Reduction and Prohibition Law, which bans the use of plastic bags at checkout counters.

In 2013, Bynum co-introduced Bill No. 2491 with Gary Hooser, which required mandatory disclosure of pesticide and GMO use by large commercial agricultural entities and required a buffer zone around schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas. It also prohibited open-air testing of experimental pesticides and experimental GMOs.

“I have learned so much from Tim Bynum over the years, and I will sorely miss his wise counsel, his fearlessness and his good humor,” Hooser said.

The bill was passed by the council a year later, but was overturned in court.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the court’s ruling that the Hawaii Pesticides Law preempts the county’s laws.

“I’m hoping he didn’t get the bad news before he died,” said Felicia Cowden, of Kauai Community Radio.

Cowden said she and Bynum go back about 15 years.

“He means so much to me, and I love him dearly,” she said. “Tim was such a kind, warm-hearted person.”

Fern Rosenstiel, who recently ran for the District 16 seat on the House of Representatives, agreed.

“He was a great councilmember and is remembered as a wonderful man and a servant who worked tirelessly for the community and for justice for our people and environment,” she said.

Bynum was influential in inspiring young people to get involved in politics, Rosenstiel added.

“He inspired our generation to act and to be politically involved,” she said. “For that, I am forever grateful. I am grateful to have known him and was able to stand alongside a man of so much character and conviction.”

Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney, said he’ll remember Bynum most for his passion for the community.

“I remember standing by the side of the road the morning after the election in 2012. A lot of people thought he wasn’t going to win that year, and he had some health issues that kept him from campaigning,” Kollar said. “But when he did, at 6 a.m. the next day he was out there thanking the voters.”

Kawahara, who considered Bynum a mentor, said he was dedicated to improving the lives of the people on the island that he loved.

“His earlier work background was social work and counseling. I think that’s why he’s so good at seeing the big picture of what contributes to a good quality of life in the community,” she said.

Bynum was different than the average politician, Hooser said.

“He was always willing to do the hard work and in-depth research necessary for good decision-making,” he said. “And he always put integrity and the pursuit of justice ahead of all other considerations.”

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