HANAPEPE — Kaua‘i County Council candidate Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, 70, is up early each day, and on this day, before 8 a.m., she’d gotten to Salt Pond with a coffee and apple pie in hand. Later, she’d head into Lihu‘e to pick up goods and bring them back west.
Semi-retired, she gets up earlier than most people with full-time jobs. A day can be filled with checking in on and caring for a kupuna, riding her decked-out, three-wheeler bike picking up trash, and paddling from Kekaha Gardens to Davidsons.
A resident of Kekaha, Simbre-Medeiros said the Westside is often forgotten, and she’s running because she wants to give her home a voice.
Simbre-Medeiros adopted five of her grandchildren, raising 14 kids in all with her husband. One, Shiloh, was found in the water in 2017. The autopsy found various drugs in his system, proving he was not a victim of drowning. They had gotten him help on O‘ahu but, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.
And that’s why she’s running, she said.
“Keiki like mine need help,” Simbre-Medeiros said. “They have to go to Honolulu. They gotta find placement for them.”
She’s upset the Adolescent Healing and Treatment Center was repurposed, and said the county needs to invest in its children.
“They were bragging and boasting and everything,” she said.
Her home of Kekaha, she said, is a “hot spot for drugs.”
Being on the council, she said, she’d like to chair the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.
“I would really enforce,” she said. “I’ll be a watchdog because if I can turn in my own family, I would. I don’t want to see another kid have what had happened to mine. Things gotta stop.”
“You can have a prized possession, a six-string ‘ukelele can cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but you get hooked on drugs and trade it. It doesn’t matter. They trade it for one hit.”
One of those Kekaha-specific platform pieces has to do with housing.
She said homes on the Westside are often priced cheaper, usually due to being farther from Lihu‘e. Often, she sees opportunities, like jobs, developments, land, being scooped up by non-Westside residents.
“They don’t price our home like they do elsewhere,” she said. “You have people from the mainland who buy lots and rent them out or buy and sell.”
She supports buying local foods and products, and finding a way to diversify the economy away from tourism. She has another issue: taxes.
“Our property tax (system) doesn’t work,” she said. “The locals suffer.”
She’d like to see higher taxes on non-residents or out-of-county homebuyers raised.
Much of who Simbre-Medeiros is can be boiled down to how she shows up. Whether that’s driving a van full of boys to go paddling or a van full of seniors to go camping for the night.
This summer, one of the kupuna she cared for died. She holds that each day as a reminder that everything can change in a heartbeat.
“When you work with seniors, you have to be really strong. My job, when we have programs or even when we do outreach, you never know how you’ll find your seniors,” she said. “Everybody’s going to be one one day. It’s a hard job.”
She taught staff that they need to be strong in case that moment comes where they walk into the room to find their kupuna has passed away.
In her line of work, she’s become a proxy for children who live off-island, and the aunty or mom to those around her.
“I say here, ‘take my number. My phone is on 24/7,’” she said. “If they need help, I’ll be there for them.”
Simbre-Medeiros ran for council two years ago and placed 18 out of 24 candidates in the primary election with 1,726 votes. In this August’s primary, she placed 13 with 2,788 votes.
“I was sitting down, relaxing, talking story,” she said. “I was number 13. It never changed. Que sera, sera, if I get in, I get in. I’m not going to be a crybaby, but this election is like wow. People are desperate.”
She’s using her signs from the last campaign this year.
“Who can talk or be the most educated? Let me tell you, it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be the same. Take it as it is. When it comes, it comes. If I get in, watch me work. I’m not afraid to work or be afraid to fight for the people.”
Simbre-Medeiros can tell stories for hours, sharing the details of who she’s been able to help just to put a smile on somebody’s face. She’s not afraid to show up, she said.
“The people who know me, I’m a person. I don’t have a title. I don’t come from a family who gets a title. I’m just Shirley Simbre-Medeiros: a person who cares, who is willing to help.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.