The team reopening Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — Recovering from the coronavirus pandemic will take time, but the county has been discussing short- and long-term goals since the beginning.

In figuring out how to reopen Kaua‘i, Mayor Derek Kawakami enlisted stakeholders and business leaders from across the island to discuss key initiatives, covering topics including restructuring the economy, diversification, and pertinent issues within various domains.

Kawakami formed the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team in mid-March, led by an executive team that includes leaders with the county Office of Economic Development, Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, Kaua‘i Economic Development Board and Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.

The teams are broken up into eight sectors, and consist of roughly 10 people per team: agriculture, led by Jackie Kaina of the KEDB; business, led by Mark Perriello of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce; construction and public works, led by County Councilmember Luke Evslin; education, led by County Councilmember Mason Chock; finance, led by County of Kauai Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama; health care, led by Ellen Ching with county Office of Boards and Commissions; tourism, led by Sue Kanoho, KVB executive director; and an encompassing “future team” looking at things like technology and sustainability, led by Warren Doi with OED.

Those participating on the teams are unpaid volunteers who the county’s OED Director Nalani Brun says makes for “a diverse and experienced set of representatives from that industry, many of whom have guided our island through previous recovery efforts.”

“These leaders are volunteering their time to help assist in the development of strategies and action plans in the sector in which they are a stakeholder,” Brun said in an email. “They will help identify the needs of their industry, create recommendations for short-term relief, and strategize longer-term, economic-recovery plans.”

OED Business Innovation Coordinator and executive team member Diana Singh has been part of the process since the beginning, and has sat in on several sector teams.

Singh has been working to compile the first set of recommendations to present to the mayor, and one common theme she’s heard from members who have been part of prior recovery efforts — like the 2018 flood and Hurricane ‘Iniki — is that this recovery needs to be more forward-thinking.

“In these prior responses, they really wished that they had thought bigger picture in our recovery effort,” Singh said. “Rather than rebuilding directly as we were before, we should also be thinking about the future, and how we can do things better so that when we eventually come out of this current crisis mode that we’re in, not only are we back to where we are, but eventually we’re actually in a better place.”

Team meetings have been conducted virtually or on the phone, Brun said. The executive team, which Singh is a part of, has been meeting daily since mid-March. And sector teams have met at least once a week since the beginning of April.

Among the teams, there is expertise from individuals representing the state Department of Education, state Department of Health, County Council, Hawaiian Airlines, hotels and local businesses like Kaua‘i Beer Co. and Rob’s Good Times Grill. Teams are structured with one leader and a note-taker in groups ranging from three to 15 members.

Singh shared insight into the agriculture team. Part of these discussions have included how to make sure farmers still have income and identifying that people are receiving food.

“It’s especially imperative during this crisis that people can have fresh, healthy food and that we’re not disrupting our food chain any more than has already happened,” she said.

“The goal really is to get a complete picture of the needs within (each) industry and make sure we’re addressing them and that no one is being left out in our approach,” she said.

Finance Committee: Leland Kahawai (First Hawaiian Bank), Monia Belz (KGEFCU), Sonia Topenio (Bank of Hawai‘i), Reiko Matsuyama (Finance Director), Dean Toyofuku (Insurance), Mark Tanaka (Kaua‘i Realty), Dan Fort (WIOA), Nalani Brun (OED), Tess Shimabukuro (Gather FCU).

Future – Sustainability and Technology: Warren Doi (OED), Ben Sullivan, Tom Shigemoto (A&B Properties), Joel Guy (North Shore Shuttle), David Bissell (KIUC), Dan Giovanni (Formerly HECO), Leanora Kaiaokamalie (Planner), Mina Morita (Former chair of Public Utilities Commission), Howard Greene (Gay and Robinson), Beth Tokioka (KIUC).

Agriculture: Larry Feinstein (Kaua‘i Beer Co.), Theri Martin Haumea (OED), Stacy Sproat-Beck (Waipa), Fred Cowell (Kaua‘i Coffee), Josh Uyehara (Hartung Brothers), Yoshi L’Hote (Aina Ho‘okupu o Kilauea), Jackie Kaina (KEDB), Will Lydgate (Farmer), Brad Seymour (Irrigation), Savannah Katulski (CTAHR), Martin Amaro (Agriculture specialist, OED), Johnny Gordines (Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau), Marlene Duarte, Glenn Sato.

Construction and Public Works: Luke Evslin (Kaua‘i County Council), Keith Perry (County of Kaua‘i), Scott Pingrey (Kaua‘i Concrete & Rock), Gary Mackler (Former housing director), Jef Fisher (Earthworks Construction), Brett Schumauch (Unlimited Construction), Sandy Kaauwai, Marie Williams (County of Kaua‘i), Milo Spindt (Kaua‘i Housing Dev. Corp. executive director), Adam Roversi (County of Kaua‘i Housing Director).

Healthcare: Janet Berreman (Department of Health), Lauren Guest (Department of Health), Ellen Ching (Boards and Commissions), Lance Segawa (Hawai‘i Health Systems), Paige Moura (Hawai‘i Health Systems), Kurt Akamine (GI Rehab and Healthcare), David Peters (CEO, Hoola Lahui Hawai‘i), Jan Tenbruggengate (Writer), Kipukai Kuali‘i (Kaua‘i County Council), Jackie Kaina, Jen Chahanovich (Wilcox).

Education: Bill Arakaki (Department of Education), Mason Chock (Kaua‘i County Council), Mahina Anguay (Waimea HS Principal), Helen Cox (Former KCC Chancellor), Joseph Daisy (KCC Chancellor), Kimo Perry (Education support, Royal Order), Buffy Trujillo (Native Hawaiian Leader), Sabra Kauka (Native Hawaiian Leader), Rose Ramos-Benzel (UH Foundation), Paul Zina (Department of Education), Lisa Mireles (Dream Tech Learning), Alice Luck (KPAA), Lisa Watanabe (SUPPORT), Jackie Kaina, Sarah Styan (Students Sharing Science).

Tourism: Sue Kanoho (Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau), Gini Kapali (Former OED Director), Fred Atkins (Kilohana), Rob Silverman (Rob’s Good Times Grille), Leinaala Pavao Jardin (Native Hawaiian Leader), Leesha Kawamura (Hawaiian Airlines Regional Manager), Jim Braman (Cliffs at Princeville), Denise Wardlow (Westin at Princeville), Paul Toner (Kauai Marriott), Anna Baudouin, Kamika Smith (Smiths Motor Boat Services and Luau).

Data Team: Diana Singh (Office of Economic Development), Sandy Kaauwai (OED), Anna Baudouin (Kauai Chamber of Commerce)

Business: Tad Miura (déjà vu Surf Co.), Sam Pratt (Niu Pia Land Company), Ann Hashisaka (Kauai Kookie), Donna Apisa (Oceanfront Realty), Melissia Mae Sugai (Kaua‘i Made), Lesah Merrritt (Safeway), Mark Oyama (Contemporary Flavors), Eric Nordmeier (West Kaua‘i & Prof. Assn.), Mark Pereillo (Chamber), Carol Texeira (NOTE TAKER), Stacie Chiba-Miguel (The Shops at Kukui‘ula)


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. Citizen April 29, 2020 4:01 am Reply

    I couldn’t agree more that Kauai and Hawaii need to diversify the economy. We are all eggs one basket.

  2. Tom Campbell April 29, 2020 8:22 am Reply

    I am very confident that the gracious people of Kauai will rapidly counteract the negative effects of this pandemic. With such a wonderful spirit of ALOHA even the impossible becomes easy. Blessings to my friends there and to the friends I have yet to meet!

  3. Mark from Lihue April 29, 2020 8:26 am Reply

    What’s the problem? Mayor Derek Kawakami and Governor David Ige had an easy time forcing people to restrict visitors, shut down, hide at home, wear masks, follow curfews, not gather, etc. They made it look so simple! Is shutting things down easy compared to letting things start back up?

    Just keep all the restrictions in place, and keep Kauai closed forever. No one can enter, no one can leave. And pray you will never get sick from the deadly virus. That way no one can ever blame you for “Killing The Kupuna”. And keep dancing on Social Media because we love it.

  4. RG DeSoto April 29, 2020 8:52 am Reply

    God spare us the unintended consequences of the ”
    RG DeSoto

    1. Mirror Man April 29, 2020 1:38 pm Reply


    2. K.R.Kauai April 29, 2020 3:26 pm Reply

      You got that right

  5. numilalocal April 29, 2020 11:19 am Reply

    I hope the tourism committee will take advantage of this opportunity to assess the visitor industry’s impact on local people. Traffic, congestion, high cost of everything, violations of zoning laws and general disrespect of the island are things that need to be addressed. Having hordes of people descend again is not acceptable and we deserve better treatment from this industry. Please stop degrading Kauai in the drive for money and profits.

  6. Koa April 30, 2020 7:34 am Reply

    How is it now justified to force businesses to stay closed? Every day that goes by the number of businesses who can never re-open is increasing.
    Do the right thing and allow us to go to work! We need to feed our families.

    With 0 deaths and 0 new cases and 0 in the hospital there is no more reasons to keep the lid on. Face it, people die every day, this is a sad reality, but we cannot stop that artificially.
    Would we close the highways for months, because we have terrible accidents?
    Do we shut the economy down when we have a bad flu season ?
    Every year up to 60,000 people die of influenca in the USA ……Covid 19 deaths stand at a terrible 54,000. This is life on earth. Having businesses go under and having many people without income is not the answer. Perhaps Dems are politically motivated to make Trump look bad, to have one more go at discrediting our president?

  7. Coral L Miles May 3, 2020 2:36 pm Reply

    To Governor Iki and Mayor Kawacommie,
    Hope you have been enjoying all the power you’ve been wielding. I am going to predict that it will come to an end. There is such a thing as people’s inherent rights, freedoms, and lawful assembly. I do mean lawful, such as social distancing and wearing a mask when required.
    According to Kauai’s own statistics, unquarantined Covid-19 cases on the island have been at zero for 3 weeks. There could be no censure anyone could dream up that would show improvement over zero cases. Simple intelligence and logic should prevail.
    Visitors should be screened. Interisland travelers should be screened.
    We might also look at the scientific research on “herd” sociology which suggests that mild cases and possible immunity are even protective.
    I’ve heard criticism from some saying our President is a dictator. You easily fit in that category.
    Our businesses are hurting, our people are hurting. Listen to your people. If we must speak louder, we will!

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