Kawakami wants to plan ahead, establish strong relationships

LIHUE — After he is sworn in to the Kauai County Council next month, Derek Kawakami said he will strive to find compromises between differences of opinion among councilmembers.

“My first priority on the council is to start laying the infrastructure for a productive term, which includes establishing and maintaining productive relationships with my colleagues and constituents,” he said.

But he concedes the various councilmembers will not always agree on every issue.

“Nor should ever be that way,” he said. “Civil discourse is the very foundation of understanding different perspectives and valuing and respecting different positions on an issue. This is where the art of compromise begins and solution building and productivity can be realized. Having relationships with solid foundations paves the way for these dynamics.”

The 39-year-old is a fourth-generation Kauai resident. Kawakami, who lives in Kapahi, served on the council from 2008 to 2011.

He is returning to local government after serving in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015, representing District 14.

On Nov. 8, Kawakami topped the race for a council seat, receiving 15,990 votes or 8.4 percent. He was followed by Arryl Kaneshiro, incumbent, who received 12,779 votes or 6.7 percent.

“I was very humbled and thankful that the people of Kauai and Niihau have allowed me the opportunity to represent them on the County Council,” Kawakami said.

Kawakami and Arthur Brun are the new faces to the council. Brun ended the night with 11,003 votes or 5.8 percent.

They are unseating Gary Hooser and KipuKai Kuali’i, who were running for re-election.

“The beautiful thing about the County Council composition, all seven of us, is that these are the individuals that the voters chose to represent them and their interests,” Kawakami said. “I’m looking forward to working with fellow councilmembers to make noticeable progress for Kauai’s families for today and the future.”

He doesn’t consider sign waving, neighborhood canvassing and other campaign tools as campaigning. Rather, it’s part of of life in a small community.

“We very much enjoy being at community events as a family. Whether we were running for office or not, we would most likely be doing what we do, which is to enjoy this island, her people and all there is to offer,” Kawakami said. “We just live life, and appreciate what we have.”

Kawakami is looking forward to Inauguration Day, which will take place Thursday.

“I have been blessed with experiencing the pomp and circumstance of the opening day ceremony at the state Legislature, but there is something very special about being inaugurated at home surrounded by family and friends,” Kawakami said.

When it comes to the county budget, Kawakami hopes to find alternative ways, other than raising taxes, to raise revenue.

Options to explore include improving business climate, investing in economic development and creating new economies by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, he said.

Moving forward, Kawakami also hopes the new council will work toward improving the lives of residents on the Garden Isle.

“And in doing so, we have the vision to understand that we are not only deliberating on Kauai’s current status, but planning for 20 years and more into the future,” he said.

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