Much of what has been written about Tim Bynum focuses on his eight years on the Kauai County Council. This political service was merely his means to a greater end. A man of unusual integrity, Tim dedicated his life to changing policies and systems for a more just world.
By education and profession Tim was a therapist advocating for the abused and marginalized. In California, he brought policy changes to the child welfare system so that children would not have to continuously repeat traumatizing stories of abuse to authorities, a practice that has now been adopted nationwide. Tim came to Kauai in 1991 to work as a therapist at Child and Family Services.
After Hurricane Iniki Tim initiated, coordinated, raised funds, and recruited hundreds for the creation of Kamalani Playground. He did this all as a community service. Hundreds of children gave input into the design of the playground. Families slept in the park for two weekends and worked together during the day laying tiles, carving designs, sanding, painting, and building. The young and the old, the skilled and the unskilled, professionals and unemployed, KCCC inmates and KCC professors participated. A thousand or more people came to celebrate its inaugural day in October of 1994. Kamalani Playground was such a huge success that Tim organized and orchestrated the building of Kamalani Bridge a few years later.
Despite plaques to others who contributed to Kamalani Playground, nowhere on the playground do you see Tim’s name. He did not self-promote and it was done purely as an act of love for community.
Tim continued his work as a therapist with the YWCA and then with the Children’s Advocacy Center. Tim also directed and helped to build Leadership Kauai, which cultivates local leaders from diverse backgrounds to serve our community. Around this same time Tim started “Maintaining Excellence,” conferences providing training for mental health professionals from around the country.
In 2003, Mayor Brian Baptiste recruited Tim to do community outreach. Tim was an empathetic listener, and worked to facilitate resolution around issues like public access. It was during this job that he was encouraged by community leaders like Puna Dawson to run for County Council.
Along with his community, Tim’s greatest love was his family. Tim and his wife Gini of 41 years met as teenagers at the neighborhood church. Gini has worked for 35 years as a nurse, in many different capacities. Gini and Tim’s son David is a fisherman on Kauai and the father of one son. Their daughter Kelly works with traditional Turkish weaving families and local artists to design and make unique towels and other products. Kelly is married to Andrew Kakalia and they have two sons.
As a councilmember, Tim was dedicated to bettering life for local Kauai families and especially the less fortunate. Bravely, he exposed violations of law in taxation and permitting related to some of Kauai’s largest landowners and most powerful interests. Tim believed in the innate goodness of people and believed that justice would prevail when brought to light.
For exposing misconduct, challenging powerful interests, and supporting Bill 2491’s intent to protect residents from the harmful effects of pesticides, Tim was cruelly attacked in a well-funded smear campaign. False, callous ads were sent anonymously to island households from the mainland. Nobody has been held accountable, and hateful personal attacks continue even after his death in opinion pieces and blogs. Despite suffering personally, Tim always stood his ground for justice.
Fortunately, Tim understood that the work a person does for the greater good may not be seen immediately, but that even a slight shift in trajectory may eventually cause larger ripples of social change. Tim’s many legacies will live on and grow.
Tim also had a joyful and playful spirit. He took real delight in small things. He loved music, and was an authentic Dead Head from early teen years. Tim was adamant that he did not want a funeral service, so his friends and admirers are hosting a celebratory Going Away Party/Potluck with music, food, drink and dance for him on Friday, Dec. 16, 4:30 p.m. at Kamalani Park.
Laurel Brier, Andrea Brower and Rob Brower are a Kapaa family.