w Editor’s note: This is the ninth of profiles on those running for Kauai County Council. Fourteen candidates are running for seven two-year seats.
LIHUE — Norma Doctor Sparks has spent a lifetime in public service and she wants to continue down that path, which is why she’s running for Kauai County Council.
The co-founder and president of Families First Hawaii, a consulting firm that advocates for children, started her career as a social worker and then earned her law degree, clerking for Chief Judge James Burns in the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals and would eventually become a deputy attorney general.
Doctor Sparks continued her public service in California, directing a number of public agencies, where she managed 14,000 employees and a $4 billion budget.
“Right now on Kauai being on the County Council will enable me to use my social work, administrative and legal experience to try to get the best Kauai that we can have,” she said.
The daughter of immigrants, Doctor Sparks said her sister wanted to attend Ohio State University, but her family didn’t have the funds, so they started a nursing home, which helped fund their children’s education.
“That nursing home was right next to our home and so I watched my parents take care of these people and also my mother was a real advocate in the community and so a lot of new immigrant women came to my mother for guidance,” she said.
Her mother hired them to work in the nursing home which would give them the skills they needed to move forward in their careers.
“A lot of them actually became registered nurses, RNs and they’ve also contributed to the community,” Doctor Sparks said.
Growing up in this environment motivated Doctor Sparks to become a social worker and eventually a lawyer.
“That’s why I decided to be a social worker, because of my upbringing and experiencing of uplifting seniors and helping them as much as possible,” she said.
One of Doctor Sparks major concerns for Kauai is the county budget. It determines the county’s priorities, she said, and present and past councils have made decisions that have not been as vetted as they could have been.
“I think there’s a lot of dollars that are spent that we are not aware of because they have a surplus and they want to spend it before the end of the fiscal year. I don’t believe that’s how it should work. I really believe that we on Kauai, regular people, should be able to know exactly every single dollar how it’s being spent,” Doctor Sparks said.
It’s about ensuring that the community knows how it’s being spent and making sure it’s being spent on the community’s priorities.
Doctor Sparks said she’s also concerned about affordable housing.
“I would like to look at how the county lands that we presently own, how they’re going to be used, because if the cost of land is going to be the most expensive for any development and I don’t think we should depend on for profit developers only,” she said. “In Eleele they’re building these houses with they’re sweat equity.”
She said she’d like to look at how much a home built on county lands with sweat equity would cost and would like to maintain a number of affordable units in the inventory.
“We also need rentals,” she said, like apartment buildings, rentals and tiny houses to be built in the back of houses across the island.
“A lot of that has to do with money, which is why the budget needs to be looked at,” Doctor Sparks said.
Doctor Sparks said she is also committed to protecting Kauai’s environment.
“I want everything to be as pristine as possible, so my position on the kinds of attention we give to the environment is very important,” she said.
When voters head to the polls Tuesday, Doctor Sparks said they should vote for her because she has a proven record of working in public service.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, 652-7891, firstname.lastname@example.org