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CANDIDATE PROFILE - HawaiʻI County Mayor

Neil Azevedo

Residence: Panaʻewa

Bio: I am a kamaʻāina of Hilo, a husband, father of 5, grandfather, coach, and experienced leader. My parents are Buddy and Edna Azevedo and I am the youngest of 11 siblings. I was born and raised in Waiākea Uka. My passion is coaching kids of all ages. I’ve coached for over 30 years. For the past 2 years I have been the head football coach at Waiākea High School. My family owned a construction company where I learned to work hard with strong work ethics. I’ve been in the construction industry for over 30 years in the private sector. I started as a laborer, worked my way to a Journeyman Operator and became Superintendent. I am the current Highways Division Chief for the County of Hawaiʻi. I have the heart and the passion to make a difference for Hawaiʻi County. The decisions we make to build a healthy and thriving Hawaiʻi Island community is not just for us – it’s for future generations. 

Why do you think you are the right candidate for mayor of Hawaiʻi County? 

I think I am the right candidate for Mayor of Hawaiʻi County because, I have no political ties and care deeply about people. I love to serve the public and have the dedication to get the job done.

Please tell us about your biggest personal or professional accomplishments in the past five years.

In the private construction sector, I worked with my team to build infrastructure and facilities where our Hawaiʻi Island community lives, works, learns and plays like Keaʻau High School, the UH Hilo Athletic Complex, and Issac Hale Beach Park. As Highways Division Chief for the County of Hawaiʻi since 2015, I led a team that delivered long-awaited improvements to make our public roads and facilities safer, like paving Hoʻolulu Complex parking, widening shoulders on Waikoloa Road, and the Queen’s Lei multi-modal path alongside Ane Keohokālole Highway.

What will be your top three priorities in your first 100 days as mayor? 

1. Meet with all departments to go over the whole island and communication. The ability to address the entire island is important in providing transparency in government and ensuring trust in the public.

2. Streamline the permit process to get jobs out quicker and get people working.

3. C.A.T. - develop a recovery plan for Construction, Agriculture, and Tourism.

Some say "development" has a negative connotation in Hawaiʻi. Others say it is an important element in our community's future. Where do you stand?

Development can work as long as respect is involved. Respect for the land and itʻs people. In respecting the culture, we understand that there is a place for development to take place and areas where it should not.

As mayor, what would you do to implement the principles of the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration?

Aloha ʻĀina - Anything I do on the ʻāina is done with respect. By applying the idea of mālama ka ʻāina and take care of the land as it will take care of you, we make sure that all the work we do is with respect and keeping that in mind. 

ʻŌpū Aliʻi - To serve the public is rewarding and a kuleana I donʻt take lightly. Open communication is important to ensure transparency. We need to make sure we treat all people fair.

ʻImi ʻOi Kelakela - Development opportunities are needed to be able to suit the needs of our people. However, we need to be respectful and know that there is a place to develop and a place to leave as is.

Hoʻokipa - Hawaiʻi will always be my home. If elected Mayor, I intend on making sure that we take care of our kuleana when it comes to our natural resources and sustainability. We cannot only keep ourselves in mind. We need to think about the generations to come. Our keiki are the future.

Which areas of the Aloha+ Challenge will you focus on as mayor, and what plans do you have to help achieve these sustainability goals on Hawaiʻi Island?

We would like to focus on all but we will start with waste reduction.

Reducing solid waste is of high priority here in Hawaiʻi. I would like to set back up recycling centers at all solid waste transfer stations to allow for proper sorting before disposal. I am also open to hearing ideas about how to apply some of the methods of source reduction, recycling, bioconversion & landfill diversion methods and work in partnership with those that have applied and seen positive results.

We have ideas for the other areas as well.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the County has gotten involved in addressing food, housing, medical care, and other social welfare needs. How should the County pivot to focus on economic recovery and growth?

Since tourism got hit hard because of COVID19, the tourism industry has taken a huge dive in revenue. Moving forward we need to promote inter-state tourism with promotions to drive locals businesses. Although tourism has it’s place here, we should also look into other ideas in agriculture. Farmers are available to provide different goods for local and possible export of products. Construction is also another section to look at since we can provide jobs and some affordable homes for our families here in Hawaiʻi County. We can start by streamlining the building permits process so people don’t have to wait to get projects started. Another item to consider would be a partnership with the private and non-profit sectors to provide ongoing workshops to business owners in marketing, exporting, online sales, and so on to help increase sales.

How important is the growth of clean, renewable energy for Hawaiʻi Island? Which technologies should we embrace, and should any be left off the table?

The growth of clean, renewable energy is very important. Our team will work to develop initiatives to encourage more use of renewable energy through incentive programs. These can be made possible through partnerships with private and non-profit sectors. We can then execute the initiatives through community education.

What factors or considerations will you take in hiring your cabinet, and who are some of the people you are considering or the strategy you will use to build your team?

I will formulate a team that is qualified to review the applicants resumes and start the selection process based on: education, energy, and dedication.

As Mayor, you will make decisions that affect this island and the children who will inherit it for generations to come. What is your commitment to them?

Our kids are the future of Hawaiʻi. This becomes more and more difficult to become a reality when we are seeing more kids, and some entire families moving away from Hawaiʻi in search of “better opportunities.” By working together as a community, we can develop ways to provide more opportunities here on Hawaiʻi Island. We have the land to lease for crops, herd, and aquaculture to name a few. We also have some options that we haven’t done like marketing, packaging, and processing of goods and services like the sugar and macadamia nut companies have done in the past. As Mayor, I will be dedicated to working together with community input and suggestions on supporting new industries and businesses to create good paying opportunities for Hawaiʻi island residents. Keiki are the future. Everything we do is a steppingstone for our keikis.

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