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CANDIDATE PROFILE - HawaiʻI County Mayor

Stacy Higa

Residence: Hilo


Born in raised in Hilo, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. Attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. Worked in the private sector in various middle management to executive level positions. Government experience as Hawaiʻi County Council Chair and Executive Director of a State Commission. Non profit experience as President and CEO of Nā Leo O Hawaii DBA Nā Leo TV. I am a big believer in home rule, and I want to empower our county government to take a more active leadership role in determining rules, laws and processes that affect our local way of life. I truly feel we need a business oriented person to help rebuild our economy, and to help make government more efficient and responsive. I have diversified and expanded companies, and I would like to use that experience and knowledge to help create a new and sustainable economy. One Island One Future is not a dream, but a promise!

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

I feel that our county will be facing unprecedented socio-economic challenges the likes that we have never seen before. We will be facing a new reality in what we consider normalcy. I feel that I have the experience and background to help reinvent our government and economy. We will not have time for on the job training. Every municipality and state is experiencing the same thing as us, all at the same time. That means access to help will be very limited. I have experience in business (very much needed), I have experience in county/State/Federal (Good to have), and non profit experience (Great to have). If elected, I will hit the ground running from day one and I will get things done.

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

The biggest personal accomplishment in the past 5 years is helping support my son from graduating from UH Manoa with an Electrical Engineering Degree. I am so very proud of him, and the sacrifices that my wife Jan and I did to make sure he could get a degree. His accomplishment is our accomplishment. Taking Nā Leo TV and completely reinventing it into the media center it is today. Hiring and helping each one of my 17 plus employees transition from having jobs, into having careers is so very important to me. Making Nā Leo more self sufficient, creating educational opportunities for students, making BIIF TV sports coverage equivalent to network TV, and creating new and exciting hyper local TV shows that were non existent before I arrived. I am so proud of how NLTV is viewed on a national level.

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

1) Emergency Declaration in approval and fast tracking of building permits. This will allow our private construction industry to keep providing paychecks to our construction workforce. I will then revamp and work on fast tracking permit system.  

2) Immediately formulate a County Infrastructure and Rehabilitation plan to improve our island infrastructure, and work with large construction companies to keep their profit motivation down during this rehabilitation plan. Demand and receive more bang for our buck, because our goal is to keep people employed and fix our aging infrastructure (This would include workforce/affordable housing projects).  

3) Start modernizing our service platforms to embrace technology. We should be doing more renewals and interactions over the internet. This will help in creating a more efficient and user friendly county government.

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?

I am right in the middle. Standard and regular development is OK. Over development is NOT OK. Proper planning and understanding of what each community wants is the key to maintaining proper development balances. I intend to analyze and treat every community on our island individually. I don't believe in a one size fits all mentality. I want to be the mayor to help each community create or maintain the identity that the community wants. My business back ground helped me understand what my customers wanted, and I would effectively figure out how to give those customers what they wanted. I don't want to convince or change communities into something they don't want. I intend to engage and identify how to help communities maintain or improve on what THEY want. I am a leader who loves to solve problems.

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

I would use your declaration as a starting point to educate our entire island. Your declaration is awesome in power and truth! We need a mayor and a government to understand how to implement these very intelligent principles. I would then include these principles into my cabinet and each director shall be instructed to use these principles as guides in how they should be running their individual departments. It will be easy for me to endorse and support your principles, because I already use some if not all of them already.  

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?

1) Increase Fresh Water Capacity. Hawaiʻi Island has the best water in the world! We need to understand our capacities for the big island and we need to make sure that one of our greatest resources, water, shall never be taken for granted. We need to be proactive in planning our water usage moving into the future, both for potable and irrigation needs.

2) Local Food processing and distribution. I feel that our island has the best farmers and ranchers in the state. Our Ag industry lacks the processing and distribution centers to help make our local farmers and ranchers profitable. As mayor, I will use our county resources to train/support/market our local agricultural industry.    

3) Hawaiʻi Waste to Energy would be something that I would like to see happen sooner than later.  Trucking East Hawaiʻi waste to Waikoloa is very short sighted, and needs an alternative soon.

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?

I don't believe the county should pivot. My business background leads me to more public private partnerships. The pandemic created opportunities for the county to get involved in areas that are not customary, but the Federal funding needed a pass through agency, and the county fit the bill. The county will do its part to stimulate the economy as best as it can, and using the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures principles, the county needs to immediately work with and involve more private sector businesses and non profit companies. Pivoting means moving away, and my belief is a good leader will be inclusive and not sacrifice social welfare for economic welfare. They are one and the same and dependent on each other, and that is why I would work to make both work hand in hand.

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?

Absolutely Critical!! We have the greatest resources at our disposal. We need to reduce the dependence on oil and other non renewable energy sources. I feel that solar, geothermal, waste to energy, and hydrogen should all be looked at.  I am not in support of wind turbines, because I feel we have enough alternatives sources and I personally don't like the footprint of the giant turbines, versus the amount of energy that they actually produce.

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 intend to hire the best and the brightest from around the island. I will attract these high quality leaders because I intend to do the following which has never been done before.

1) I split my cabinet with either the director or deputy working in West Hawaii.  

2) Each deputy or director will be in charge of HALF the island, and each will have operational autonomy and authority for the half that they over see.  

3) This way, West Hawaii decisions will be made in West Hawaii, and East Hawaii decisions made in East. People will be able to work with a more efficient administration because now we will have capable people working out of BOTH facilities. I will be working half of my time out of each facility because that is where the work will be originating from. This should encourage people to apply because it is a fair and equitable organizational structure.

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?

I would not be running for mayor if the future generations were not part of my overall thought processes. In real simple terms....I CARE!!! At 57 years old, I am at that right place in my life that I aspire to no other elected office. I would love the opportunity to help lead the county during what I consider will be some of the most difficult times that any of us will see. Local boy who grew up in a community that nurtured and raised me to be the husband, father, and friend. I remember what that community did for me, and I want to reignite our County government to recreate that nurturing environment of years past. I want US to control our own destiny! I want US to decide what our communities will look like!  I want US to provide opportunities for our children to become the next generation of leaders here on our island. I want our children to have the opportunities that I had, and I will work hard every day to make their futures the best that it can be! My commitment to the future generation is that we will preserve the artifacts of who we are, yet recognize that as the foundation and not the structure. That we not close the culture to what we have been but open it to a continued flow of new ideas, their ideas. The Hawaiian culture remains the basis for who we are and who we become, as it is an inclusive and accepting process. That is what makes it unique and, in fact, the only avenue leading to the survival of this planet. It is, again, our mission to save ourselves, but to do it in a way that saves us all.

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