LIHUE — If elected to serve on the board of directors for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Norma Doctor Sparks wants to focus on how the co-op helps residents recover from natural disasters.
“I am interested in reviewing the plan for hurricane disasters. I want to be sure that we are prepared for the next hurricane — I remember Hurricane Iniki’s impact on Kauai. I want to be sure that in addition to families being prepared with their water, canned goods and batteries,” she said, “KIUC will also be prepared to ensure that families will have electricity after a hurricane.”
The Koloa resident, one of seven candidates running for three seats for the KIUC board of directors, also wants to see if the co-op has plans to cut down trees close to electrical lines and to protect solar panels.
“I was born and raised on Kauai with roots to the sugar plantations and a history of public service,” she said. “I want to bring a fresh perspective to KIUC issues and am committed to ensuring the best interest of KIUC members.”
In her professional career, the 67-year-old served as the Hawaii deputy attorney general and a senior law court at the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals.
As deputy assistant director with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, she managed a $4 billion budget and was responsible for 14,000 employees.
She also co-founded Families First Hawaii Services, a consulting firm that advocates for children and their families.
Doctor Sparks believes that background will be an asset to the KIUC board.
“I will consider the facts and consequences of the board’s actions and provide oversight and ensure accountability in the management of KIUC’s budget,” she said.
If elected, Doctor Sparks said she will also work to increase and transparency and communication.
“As a member, I would like to receive more information on the progress of projects in relation to the project plan and proposed budget,” she said. “As a director, I would work towards better sharing of information about KIUC.“
Doctor Sparks, who ran for a seat on the Kauai County Council in the 2016 elections, said the main issue facing the co-op in the coming years is balancing the ever-increasing interest in renewable energy with reducing electricity costs.
“There have been great strides toward meeting the renewable energy goals in KIUC’s strategic plans and the challenges of producing 50 percent of KIUC’s power by renewable sources by 2023 will continue this year,” she said. “Further, the strategic plans have to be reviewed in light of the state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.”
One of KIUC’s goals is to have 50 percent of Kauai’s power be generated by renewable energy by 2023 and 100 percent by 2045.
Earlier this month, the co-op said they will reach 50 percent by next year, and have set a new goal of 70 percent by 2030.
Doctor Sparks, who is a member of several nonprofit organizations such as Kauai Planning and Action Alliance, the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Mahaulepu and Surfrider Foundation, said her family’s ties to the plantation gave her a background in renewable energy at a young age.
“My father worked as a powerhouse operator for McBryde Sugar Plantation in Kalaheo when I was a young child, and I learned about some alternatives to fossil fuels or oil for many years,” she said.
In her professional life, Doctor Sparks was involved in the procurement and maintenance of various sources energy used in the buildings where she worked.
“I would like to be part of the discussion because I am a member of KIUC and because KIUC’s discussions have such an impact on all residents of Kauai,” she said. “I think my training and my work experience will help to give a fresh perspective on the discussions.”
There are nine people on the governing board and each term is three years.