A new beginning and a new hope.
It was clear that Mayor Derek Kawakami brought both of those with him as he took the oath of office to step in as Kauai’s highest-elected leader.
And it’s equally clear that the people who elected him, by a wide margin, share those hopes and believe he will deliver on those expectations.
So do we.
Kawakami has the tools and qualities to take this island to new heights. As a son, a brother, a husband, a father, he knows well the importance of ‘ohana. As a legislator and councilman, he understands how government works and what it takes to get things done. As a businessman, he is aware of what must happen to succeed financially, how to take care of employees and how to serve customers. As an athlete, he recognizes the sacrifices required to excel and the key role that physical, mental and emotional well-being play. And as a lifelong resident here, he has a heart for aloha. He values and respects the past and the culture, honors our kupuna, while at the same time, looks to the future.
We liked what he said:
“There is a way to build our neighborhoods and communities mindfully and efficiently.
“There is a way to grow sustainably, and be better caretakers of our ‘aina.
“There is a way to take better care of one another.
“There is a way to do all of this and more. And today is that day!
“Today is the first day of our future!”
He is the right man to lead Kauai into the future. He is the right man because that future is filled with challenges. They include the ones we’re all aware of — traffic, lack of affordable housing, rising cost of living, and homelessness. We don’t expect instant answers. The roads won’t clear up tomorrow. Housing won’t change overnight. Homeless won’t be a thing of the past.
But we can be assured that Derek Kawakami will not rest easy knowing these challenges are out there. This is a man who has demonstrated an ability to rise up and meet challenges. He does not shy away from them. And he is the first to point out, he will not be alone in seeking solutions. That is why he assembled a first-rate administration. They are part of his leadership team.
Kauai is not just an island to govern. This is his home. This is the place he loves. No one wants the people here to do well more than Derek Kawakami. No one wants this island to thrive more than him. He will do what’s best for everyone who calls Kauai home and again, we stress that he has the smarts, the skills and the experience to succeed. No one is more suited to lead the way for the next four years, and perhaps the next eight, than Derek Kawakami.
Being a leader means having vision. It means being creative. It means being pragmatic. It also means making tough decisions. Not everyone will like his decisions in the years to come, and not everyone will agree with them, but they should respect them. Kawakami gives respect and expects it in return. He has earned it.
We congratulate Mayor Kawakami and wish him the best in leading Kauai. We believe he can unify this island in ways that few could. We believe he can lead it into the future and as he said, create a better quality of life for all.
We also believe Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro will do a fine job. He, too, is a strong leader, gifted in many areas and with experience in the public and private sectors that will serve Kauai well. He understands the responsibilities that come with being council chair and there is no doubt he wants what’s is best for Kauai. He is strong enough to guide the council, to keep it focused on serving the people, and avoid division and discord. He is the right man for this critical post.
And we congratulate and offer our applause to the new council that took office Monday — Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, and councilmembers Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Luke Evslin and KipuKai Kuali‘i. They all bring strengths to the council that will benefit Kauai. We like the collective talents of this council and believe they will succeed in looking out for the best interests of the people. Individually, they are each very sharp. As a group, they will certainly challenge each other. But they will also bring out the best in each other. That is what we want of our leaders.
You’re heard it before. Perhaps some of you even have doubts.
Mayor Kawakami and this council have a wonderful opportunity. They have a chance to improve today and create a brighter tomorrow. We believe they will display the unity and aloha of which all of us can be proud, and perhaps even more important, make sound decisions, take bold actions, that will benefit all of us.
We are not saying don’t question them. We are not saying don’t demand accountability. We are saying, we elected them to lead our government. Now, let’s pay attention, let’s get involved, and let’s follow their lead.
If we do, we might be surprised at the good things that can, and will, happen.