LIHUE — When it comes to public safety on Kauai, Jerome Freitas is relentless.
The man known as Da Shadow questions the county about parks, streets, playground equipment and overgrown bushes. Since July, more than 50 issues he brought to the county administration have been resolved or answered.
On Wednesday, his efforts were recognized by the Kauai County Council, who presented him with a certificate that named him, “Protector of Kauai.”
“It was a surprise,” Freitas said. “Mel Rapozo called me told me to come in at 9 a.m., but didn’t tell me why.”
While Freitas appreciates the recognition, he said it’s not needed.
“We need to work together to make the island safer for everyone,” he said. “Everyone working together gets things done.”
Freitas meets with Rapozo, the council chairman, bi-weekly to talk about his questions, which are then disseminated to the appropriate county and state department heads. The answers are then written in a regular column in The Garden Island.
Freitas’ journey to improve public safety on Kauai started about 12 years ago when the retired maintenance worker for the Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports Division ran over a pothole.
“I decided it was about time for me to get involved, since I’m retired,” he said.
In the beginning, Freitas called a county hotline number. He called the number so often the operators knew who he was.
“After about a year, they asked to meet me,” Freitas said. “They said I was like a shadow because they never saw me.”
The moniker stuck.
“It’s a good name,” he said.
Freitas said he’s thankful to Rapozo, the rest of the council, council services staff and the Mayor’s Office for their continued support.
“I appreciate them for listening to my concerns and all they’ve done for public safety,” he said.
Da Shadow has no plans to stop his pursuit to make Kauai safe.
“As long as I’m alive and can keep moving around, I’m not going to stop,” he said. “I pray to the man above to give me the strength to ask the tough questions.”