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CANDIDATE PROFILE - HawaiʻI County Mayor

Cynthia Lahi (Marlin) Verschuurf

Residence: Puna


I am 51 and my name is Cynthia Ann Puakealahilahiokawaonahele Verschuur.  I became Lahi Marlin by marriage when I ran for Lieutenant Governor six years ago. I have served as chair of the Libertarian Party of Hawaiʻi (statewide) and as chair of the Big Island Libertarian Party. I am divorced with no children. I moved to Hawaii nei in 1991 to serve as an officer in the US Navy and moved to Moku o Keawe in 2006. I am an advocate for the Hawaiian Kingdom, and am a citizen applicant with the LHG. I grew up in Omaha, NE, have a BA in philosophy from Northwestern University, and an MS in psychology from the University of Phoenix. I formed ʻIkena Hoʻoulu (documentary) Productions in 2001 and worked as a substitute teacher for 8 years. I studied ‘olelo Hawaiʻi at KCC and have danced hula over 10 years with Manu Boyd and Ehulani Stephany. I paddled with Keahiakahoe and Anuenue Canoe Clubs for over 11 years during my 15 years on Oʻahu. I own my home of 14 years in Kalapana Seaview Estates. 

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

 There will be weighty decisions to make regarding the budget during these hard times. I am fair and am not afraid to use tough love to balance the budget and make cuts across the board, including tax cuts to keep more money in the hands of the people. We should not be leaving debt for our children. I stand for integrity and transparency, and want to see native Hawaiians on their land, not dying on a wait list. I will raise awareness that Hawaii is illegally occupied and will work with both sides to move forward.  

I have tireless energy to do what it takes to lead the people of Moku o Keawe. I have experience with military chain of command gained during my stint as a surface warfare officer in the US Navy. I am a proven leader who leads with compassion and by example. Aloha ke kahi i ke kahi is one of my core values.

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

I spent the majority of the past five years online earning my masters of science in psychology through the University of Phoenix.  I am now one step closer to earning my PhD. in transpersonal psychology from Sofia University, which I intend to use to help the homeless, distraught veterans, and those labeled with psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia. There are methods such as holotropic breathwork that can help people with those illnesses heal without the need for psychotropic medications.  I would like to do my dissertation on this topic. My MS degree which I earned this past November was another military gift as I had a full-ride American Veterans scholarship. My undergraduate education (class of ʻ90) at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL was paid in full via an NROTC scholarship. I continue to be blessed in so many ways and am grateful and humble to see how my life is piecing together.

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

1) Balance the budget, 2) work to build sustainable agriculture as the island's number one industry, 3) work to ease the building codes to legalize tiny homes, shacks and sustainable materials so that people can live on their land without regulations. Any building under 2,000 square feet should not require a permit. The building permit industry has worn out its welcome and is creating more problems than solutions. What are permits designed to do?  Keep people safe. How is this working? Backlogs and unreasonable wait times, red tape and squelching of creativity. Our people deserve better. Our building codes are designed for other places, not here in our tropical environment. Our roofs need to be designed to withstand hurricanes, not snow storms; to catch water, and to hold solar panels.

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 feel in my heart that we are developed enough. It is important to keep the land of our sacred Maunakea as pure, pristine and beautiful as possible. Let's take the development we've had and gentrify to make it better. The hotels along Banyan Drive in Hilo. The condos in Kona. Let's look at seawater rise and see which parks or developments need to be moved further inland. There are many places with "For lease" signs. Let's see all of those places rented or inhabited before we think about adding more commercial space. Let's see every hotel room occupied as well as every vacation rental before we think about adding new hotels or resorts.  What about trailer parks and tiny homes on ag land?  Let's develop our farms so that the "houseless" have a place to malama ʻāina for a win-win so that we don't need to import farm workers. Housing regulations as we have now are not the kuleana of a limited, peaceful government of the people, for the people, by the people.

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

I have joined the organization and will be participating in the breakout sessions. I would like to see the declaration as a resolution adopted by the county council, and would ask county department heads to participate in the applicable small groups. I see AAEF as a native Hawaiian "think tank" that can be invaluable in steering the course of the island's economic, spiritual, and political growth. I am honored to sit with Lanakila Mangauil, who I endorse for OHA, and the other leaders of the coalition.

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?

I value all of the Aloha+ Challenge areas but my top three would be local food production and consumption, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education. My plans include minimizing government regulations to make it easier for residents to pursue such things as affordable housing.

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 like the American Shopping Party's economic recovery plan, mastermined by Raghu Giuffre. Please see http://www.americanshoppingparty.com. I am also part of the ʻĀina Aloha Futures Coalition which is planning economic recovery through community-based initiatives. I think the island's number one industry should be agriculture, not tourism.

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?

Clean, renewable energy is paramount. I believe solar is the best renewable energy we have right now. Wind farms are too costly and environmentally invasive. I haven't done enough research about wave energy. I don't like the idea of putting chemicals into the ʻāina which is what geothermal does.

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 recently participated in the Big Island Pulse mayoral debate. In my pod were eight incredibly passionate, intelligent candidates with great manaʻo and sense of kuleana. I would look into hiring many of them for my cabinet; I would especially welcome Ikaika Marzo and Mikey Glendon. I have also begun participating in the ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures coalition of many community members. I would look there for experts in each area to fill many positions in my cabinet.

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 commit to not leaving debt for our children. I will seek to have a balanced County budget within the first 100 days of being in office. I intend to end corruption and nepotism within County government. I also commit to making the "Hulihau Action Agenda" the framework to guide County policy. "We have a rare opportunity to shift mindsets and forward plans for a stronger and more sustainable Hawaiʻi founded on ʻāina aloha—a deep and abiding love for Hawaiʻi’s communities and natural environments." I commit to helping preserve Hawaiian culture for future generations, and will seek innovation to increase energy and food sustainability.

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