Born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, my roots extend from Kapaʻahu, Kalapana to Makuʻu, Puna to Kaʻū. I’m an energetic Entrepreneur turned Community Organizer here to do what I’ve always done: help strengthen my Hawaiʻi Island community. As a business owner in sustainable, cultural tourism, ranching, fishing and fine arts, I’ve worked to empower the community by creating jobs within my hometown. I founded “The Hub,” Puʻu Honua O Puna Eruption Relief Center to provide essential resources and information to victims displaced by disaster, plus inspired thousands of volunteers and dollars in donations worldwide to contribute to this effort based on solid Aloha. For my volunteer community service to Hawaiʻi Island, I was honored by the State of Hawaiʻi House of Representatives, the Pacific Risk Management ʻOhana, T. George and Sunday Paris Foundation. Now more than ever, we need a leader with experience pulling people together to get through.
Why do you think you are the right candidate for mayor of Hawaiʻi County?
Without state or federal resources, without fiscal compensation, without a salary and as a full-time volunteer, I am the only candidate who has spearheaded and managed a successful disaster relief center and donation hub during the most destructive lava flow in the State of Hawaiʻi’s recorded history. I have empowered my community by creating jobs in my own hometown. I have proven it is possible to pull people together to get through. The pandemic represents the largest challenge Hawaiʻi has faced in generations; yet, through struggle, greatness can emerge! I include technology for communication, education and transparency, and can update our county archaic processes while respecting necessary procedures. Our people need both empathy and foresight. All I ever strive to do in my businesses, volunteer endeavors, and life is help my community by listening, learning, organizing, and acting on what is most important to the people and a successful future.
Please tell us about your biggest personal or professional accomplishments in the past five years.
Empowering lower-socioeconomic status citizens with jobs, performing a nearly lost musical Hawaiian art at Carnegie Hall of NY, coaching youth athletics and leading small-town teams to state championship games, launching into the workforce in my teenage years to support my mother and sisters following my father’s sudden passing are accomplishments which contributed to the person I am today, but my biggest leadership accomplishment was effectively responding to community cries when government did not during the 2018 eruption. The government needs to work with communities to fill gaps together. We faced 700 homes destroyed, 2500+ residents evacuated, millions of dollars of infrastructure wrecked- and true needs of the community to match the extensive, unpredictable breadth of disaster! While the county followed disorganized lists, denied families bathroom use, discredited technology, I listened and united the community to feed, cloth, house, and help the people effectively.
What will be your top three priorities in your first 100 days as mayor?
Within my first 100 days, I’ll streamline the permitting process, launch shovel-ready projects, and utilize federal grants and programs to stimulate revenue for the economy.
Our county is losing money in solid waste and recycling, although there are valuable resources to extract, particularly metals. I’ll reopen our county’s recycling facilities, negotiate contracts to sell sorted recyclables and consult industry experts to best approach permanent, self-sufficient solutions which will create a sustainable system, more jobs and energy.
I’ll start conversations with the community and state: To connect with the community, I’ll launch my cabinet task force into the field, a variety of experts and knowledgeable people from every corner of the island, to understand, gather and learn of the true needs of each unique community. Upon connecting with the state, I'll pressure DHHL to award Native Hawaiians the land they are entitled to as it’s time to break the cycle of generational poverty.
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?
The success of our island community can only be achieved by integrating sustainability for individuals, the environment, and the economy in ALL POLICY DECISIONS. This includes in health, housing, food and education; in energy, waste, infrastructure, climate and culture; in agriculture, industry, tourism and entrepreneurism. A Culture of Sustainability which includes responsible development only is key to achieving prosperity.
“Green buildings and infrastructure” for power generation, efficient transportation, solid waste and recycling, and wastewater reduction. Ensure available housing with an acceptable ‘housing burden’ of 30% or less. Expand health care and sustainable senior living to accommodate community needs, safe tourism, increasing senior population. Support new start-up businesses with innovative ideas for local problems, keep our brightest workers on-island. Support responsible technology jobs and advancements in science, communication, education, networking, e-commerce.
As mayor, what would you do to implement the principles of the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration?
Protect and sustain our precious environment and culture through policies and actions that are integrated with a resilient economy and sustainable living. Sustainable living, like ʻŌpū Aliʻi, means to protect every residents’ ability to live with the safety of having housing, food, healthcare, and education. Housing safety supports residents’ ability to afford and have a home to live in. Ensure sufficient housing is available in the community with an acceptable ‘housing burden’ of 30% or less of income. Food safety supports residents’ ability to afford food for themselves and their family. Ensure that there will be enough food by growing and producing locally. Health safety supports residents’ ability to afford and access health care. Ensure there are enough healthcare workers and facilities to support needs. Educational Safety supports adult and children residents’ ability to access education. Ensure educational opportunities, and training on ancient traditions and sustainability.
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?
Together with protecting sustainable living and a durable economy, I shall re-engage the public to protect and sustain the environment as a top priority using strategies and incentives listed in the 2020 County of Hawaiʻi Climate Action Plan, other previous plans, as well as metrics in the statewide Aloha+ Challenge. Invest in “green buildings and infrastructure” for power generation, efficient transportation, solid waste and recycling, wastewater reduction. Support policies that reduce vehicle miles traveled, carbon footprint, and filling of limited landfills, while promoting renewable energy growth, cleaner vehicles, biodegradable products, and sustainable agriculture and land use. Protect, preserve, and perpetuate our state’s indigenous Hawiian culture, landmarks, and areas of interest. Promote responsible technology and new business innovative ideas to solve local problems.All of the goals established should be addressed in achieving sustainability. Perhaps the foundation of all of the goals lies in the "smart sustainable communities." These words printed, says it all that we must strive for increase livability and resilience in the built environment through planning and implementation at the State and County levels. I would consider this the most important foundation of going forward.
See my full Culture of Sustainability platform to achieve prosperity in Hawaiʻi County on ikaikamarzo.org.
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?
There’s no practical way to separate COVID-19 management from economy, it’s a balancing act we must manage better than many governments have done worldwide, but we can learn from their mistakes. See ikaikamarzo.org for my “Guidelines to Safely Reopen our Community.” The county needs to “survive” with short-term and “thrive” with long term solutions for economic resiliency. The pandemic displaced thousands in the visitor industry, so as a short term goal, we establish safe tourism. We then reform this industry to be more sustainable, responsible, and directly support our local people, environment and economy. Construction work continues during the pandemic without much disruption so we encourage it but include more women in this male-dominated industry for equality. Long term, diversify our economy through my “Culture of Sustainability” principles and reduce our dependence on imports by expanding land/sea agriculture, science, technology, healthcare, senior living, and entrepreneurship.
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?
It’s important to implement long term solutions to be more self-sufficient. Hawaiʻi’s goal to be 100% emission-free energy is 2045. Any approach needs support from industry experts and investment into a more sustainable model for Hawaiʻi Island that reduces cost and burden on the county. We can embrace a clean, modern waste-to-energy program where about 1% of trash goes into a landfill while the other 99% is recycled or turned into energy. We can’t build more landfills, but we can create a sustainable system, more jobs, and contribute power for air conditioning and fuel for our public transportation. Before we can integrate electrical vehicles on a mass scale, we must first update household and town infrastructure to meet additional electrical demand. Things to consider when proposing changes such as phasing out different forms of energy generation (i.e. natural gas) is how it will be replaced, how realistic is that replacement, and how much better is the alternative?
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’ll surround myself with local experts whom we all trust to better our island through hard work. “Trust” what our government must regain from our people. To best understand true, individual needs and represent everyone, I’ll build my team from every part of the island. I’ll encourage women and minority applicants to shift into the future of better equality. We need various experts and knowledge: grant writers, researchers, conservationists, city planners, educators, creative innovators, and experts in science, technology, culture, healthcare, finance. I’ll build with current workers with first-hand experience in exact county departments that need the most improvement to best understand inner-workings. I’ll support a welcoming work environment, inviting varying ideas to best solve problems. I’ll make my staff and myself available and transparent to the people of Hawaiʻi County through communication and technology. My office door will be open at both the East and West Hawaiʻi offices.
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?
The eternal success of our island can only be achieved by integrating sustainability for individuals, the environment, and the economy in ALL POLICY DECISIONS. I strive to create a home where our keiki may hear the same native birds calling that their kūpuna did while those keiki can access every worldly educational, career and life opportunity here to reach their goals.
I stand for the people islandwide whom I’ve connected with, and even those whom I’ve never met but share this land and future with. I stand for kūpuna whose life stories and histories I’ve been lucky to embrace, either shaking my head in shame while hearing their past truth or laughing aloud to their joyful memory. I stand tall for all keiki whom I’ve shared a smile with around our tightly-knit Big Island community where true Aloha doesn’t need to be spoken to be felt. I stand committed to a future that unites the best wisdom of our ancient traditions, and utilizes the best of the world’s intelligence.