Meet the Candidates: Felicia Cowden

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    County Councilmember Felicia Cowden smiles at the Hanalei Lookout in Princeville.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Holding it down at KKCR is County Councilmember Felicia Cowden, doing what she knows best, informing the public.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    County Councilmember Felicia Cowden kneels next to the ginger plant called awapuhi, known as a natural shampoo resource on Kaua‘i, at the Kauai Food Forest in Hanalei.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    County Councilmember Felicia Cowden is in her element, programing with a smile at the KKCR studio in Princeville.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    County Councilmember Felicia Cowden holds up her educational book, published in March.

HANALEI — “No trauma, no drama, let’s just fix it,” incumbent Kaua‘i County Councilmember Felicia Cowden, 58, of Kilauea, said in a September interview at Kaua‘i Community Radio station KKCR.

As Cowden’s first term as a councilmember comes to an end, she shares what she learned from her radio career. That’s where she got her backbone to help her steer clear of political corruption while still having the kuleana to respect everyone.

“One thing that I’ve learned as a programmer with Kaua‘i Community Radio is how important it is to find ways to solve problems without having to make anybody wrong,” Cowden said.

Cowden has called Kaua‘i home over 36 years, and she is determined to serve Kaua‘i’s people by creating solutions and working cohesively with others.

“Something that really shaped me, I didn’t have a stable childhood, so I lived in 20 towns by the time I was 20 years old in five different states,” Cowden said. “I have been here more than anywhere. I came here when I was 21 years old, and I have been here ever since. For me, this is where I am from, this is home, and this is where my children were born.”

Cowden has two sons, Matthew, 25, and Ian, 22, who inspired her to put a high focus on education and write an educational book, “Life is the School, Love is the lesson: An adventure in free schooling,” which was published in March of 2012.

Cowden said the book is as much about life itself and why we learn as it is about the effortless process of mentorship and inquisitive learning. She said that, through this book, during this time of learning from home, parents will see this time as a blessing of deepening family connections.

Cowden studied engineering in college and worked for intel before she moved to Kaua‘i.

Cowden said her partnership in the small business of Hanalei Surf Company, for 18 years, also shaped a lot of who she is today and her understanding of both business and the visitor industry.

No matter what Cowden is doing at the moment, she said she will stop and help someone out in a heartbeat.

“It’s such an honor to be hired by the voters to be elected in my first term,” Cowden said. “This is the main thing I do because my sons are grown. I no longer have my businesses, and I don’t have competing jobs, so when I say ‘putting people first,’ I really, really mean that.”

Cowden said she was very independent and on her own since the beginning of her sophomore year in high school.

“We also didn’t always have housing,” Cowden said. “Some of that time, I was one of those kids living in the car. Right now I’ve been very passionate, especially in this COVID-19 time, to make sure that we keep our people without housing healthy. That’s why I tend to go out there and really pay attention and really advocate for their needs, and would say if somebody were to ask me what’s my main goal in this position” that it would be working for the homeless and affordable housing.

As far as affordable housing, Cowden is currently working toward helping homeowners keep their homes by finding a way to help them overcome violations.

“What I am working on doing is making sure that people who are struggling to keep their home can manage if they have a violation, that they won’t lose their home if there are violations,” Cowden said. “My goals are to help people who need to make their houses stronger, better and workable for their extended families.”

She continued: “So that they can feel comfortable that their safety is in place and that they can continue to live in that house and take care of their families and work together.”

If elected this November, Cowden would serve her second, two-year term.

Cowden said she will focus on the houseless community, affordable housing, adolescent drug-treatment center, food sustainability and community resiliency, by looking at social enterprise, impact investing, reviewing council meeting structure, and opening up communication between the county and its people.

“I introduced a bill with Councilmember Kuali‘i,” Cowden said, “we introduced a resolution to change the mortgage structure on homes on DHHL land which is unfair and is a reason many houses are lost.”

Cowden said that, besides housing, she is also passionate about Kaua‘i’s food resources and sustainability.

“You can see I am super big on that piece,” Cowden said, “and our own production of products and resilience. I have my own yarden and I love it.”

Cowden is the chair of the council Committee on Public Safety and Human Services.“So this is spot-on to what I care about,” Cowden said. “And I am involved in national organizations on this, and statewide organizations on it. And I am very active in the suicide-prevention community. And what I think, at its core, we have to find a way for our people to have hope.”

She continued: “And it really comes down to how difficult is the economy. That’s the jugular of the problem, but I am weekly, monthly, almost daily have my finger on that pulse.”

Besides serving the community each day, Cowden can be found spending time with her sons, or in the ocean.

“I love to be in the water,” Cowden said. “Swimming. I’ve done all kinds of sports. This year I managed to fracture three vertebrae. Currently, I am swimming instead to just get all my strength back up. So I am healing through swimming. But I have been somebody who loves the ocean. I also make video work, editing, storytelling, and I give plants away.”

Cowden was asked if she would run for higher political office in the future.

“If I felt somehow called to do it,” Cowden said. “I am not terribly ambitious politically. And it’s not important for me to be important. It’s important for me to help. And if people want me, I am so there for them. I am honored to have the vote and I feel like I have to work for every vote I get. I don’t take it for granted.”


Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. randy kansas October 12, 2020 6:44 am Reply

    so is the paper sponsoring politicians now, with feature stories ?

  2. Jeff irons October 12, 2020 6:52 am Reply

    Curious as to why council person Cowden, in a legislative position, never introduced a single piece of her own legislation during the entire term. What does she think her job is?

    1. Felicia Cowden October 12, 2020 2:22 pm Reply

      Aloha Jeff,
      Thank you for raising your points of interest. I did introduce a handful of bills and amendments in my term in office. A council position has a legislative function, a budget function and many opportunities to influence both policy and projects. My focus has been more in citizen advocacy in assisting with regional solutions and weighing in on state and federal policy. In my first term in office, I have allowed myself the time to listen and learn before directing the residents and the county staff on choices “I believe” they need to make. My schedule allows me full time availability to attend the commission and public outreach meetings. I am at the sewage treatment plants, the landfill, the construction site, or wherever our bills are addressing. I research the bills that others put forth and actively work to understand and address them. Always feel free to contact me with whatever concerns you may have with the job I am doing.

  3. MisterM October 12, 2020 1:31 pm Reply

    Nice, all about spending taxpayer monies. But zero concern about how to help people pay taxes by earning a decent living. Instead, it’s all about helping bums and druggies remain bums and druggies.

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