• Editor’s note: The Garden Island sat down with all 14 candidates running for seats on the Kaua‘i County Council. Profiles will run in no particular order throughout the month of October leading up to the election.
KAHILI — “I think everyone in that council has a good heart, but at this time it’s not enough,” said Billy DeCosta, a candidate for one of seven available seats.
”We need people who can take the bull by the horns, and take the donkey by the strap and saddle and make stuff happen,” said DeCosta, 55, of ‘Oma‘o.
While driving into Kahili Ridge, DeCosta pointed out a natural food source found right on his ranch.
“There are prawns in this stream, and we only take what we need to enjoy what we eat,” DeCosta said. “I truly believe in conserving resources and not over-harvesting.”
DeCosta grew up on the Robinson family plantation.
“We lived simple. We hunted, we fished, we bartered a lot with the meat that we caught with our neighbors for vegetables,” DeCosta said. “I think we lost that today, and I think if we can bring that back it’s a sign of resiliency. It’s a sign when things like the COVID-19 happen we can lean on each other as neighbors.”
As far as farming, DeCosta figured out later in life that farm to table is the way to go.
DeCosta’s main focuses
DeCosta’s platform includes food security, creating a diverse agricultural economy, grow livestock, keep products in the state, lower property taxes for local people, and create a highly-skilled program set to the county where the community can integrate summer learning instead of summer fun.
DeCosta would like to find a way to get property from the private sector or the state to create an off-the-grid farming community where houseless individuals can build their self-confidence and stay off the streets.
“I think farming happens when you are being raised in a farm community or farming atmosphere, “ DeCosta said. “I think that’s our No. 1 problem. Farming is getting the kids out to the farms like today, having them experience it when they are little and having it ingrained in them that they feel passionate about it.”
DeCosta, a former teacher at Waimea High School, previously worked with a unit of special-needs kids and those who dealt with substance abuse, teaching job skills to help build their self-esteem.
“I brought them from self-worth at the lowest level to building county picnic tables and implementing it into our county parks with Bryan Baptiste before he passed away,” DeCosta said. “The kids felt empowered.”
For the past 10 years, DeCosta has been passionate about environmental education at the Koke‘e Discovery Center. Before the pandemic, public schools would be invited to take field trips up to Koke‘e to visit “Uncle Billy” and learn about the endangered species while building relationships with their classmates.
DeCosta said his mission is to bring a group of students up to Koke‘e and inspire them to become stewards of their ‘aina and return to their classroom as a cohesive group that now cares about their island and their classmates.
Right after teaching youth on the ranch how to feed his cattle, saddle a donkey and ride an ATV, DeCosta explains the importance of empowering the keiki.
“The best way to have children to feel self-worth is to empower them into doing something, so instead of telling Lytron how to feed the cows or how to drive the ATV, I let him feed the cows, and I let him drive the ATV,” DeCosta said. “You empower them so they feel good about themselves, and self-worth is important, and that builds resilience.”
This is DeCosta’s fourth run for council.
“My oldest son, Brock, a Kamehameha graduate, said ‘Why don’t you run again and see if you can put some of your ideas into play and make it happen so our youth has an opportunity to call Kaua‘i home again,’” DeCosta said.
DeCosta said he and his wife, Drena Kaimana DeCosta, have three sons, Brock, Braven and Bronze, who were all raised “old school.”
“My wife is the love of my life and the backbone of our family,” DeCosta said.
DeCosta believes he is a man with integrity and guts when it comes to working with others and serving his community.
“That’s who I am. I am going to bring camaraderie with the other six candidates and we going make things happen,” DeCosta said. “No matter if we have to join the state, private industries, government agencies, bring people together even if it’s out of our jurisdiction.”
If DeCosta gets elected, he wants to share his beliefs with others.
“A man or woman is not measured by what they can accomplish when they become your councilmember or your mayor, but that person is measured by what they brought to the table decades before they ran for office,” DeCosta said. “It’s not who we think we are in this lifetime, but what the youth talks about us in the next life.”
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.