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Departing councilman says, ‘Mahalo’

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

As we wind down the final month of the 2019-20 Maui County Council term, I take pride in reflecting on what our county has accomplished during my tenure.

While assumed by many as a given, Maui County’s strong financial position was forged through diligent work over decades.

Over the last 22 years, the county’s finances have been healthy enough to respond to our community’s needs in times of crisis. I am proud of the role I played in building that financial security.

Throughout this lengthy and indefinite pandemic, your county has utilized its stout financial standing to provide support to our residents, workers and small businesses.

With a long recovery ahead, it is tough to leave during these challenging times. I regret not being able to continue using my experience in elected office to help guide Maui County through this period of tumult.

Henceforth, I wish the next council well. Only by working together can we continue to move our community forward.

Since my first opportunity to serve at the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention, I have prioritized our hard-working local people when making a decision.

The opportunity to serve in public office is a privilege and responsibility that should never be taken flippantly, and one I will always remain grateful for.

Always, I prioritized fiscal responsibility while in office. I utilized experience gained from working in corporate Hawaii and state government to improve the county’s financial position regarding cash and debt during my tenure in order to have the ability to respond to any county need.

By gaining that financial stability, Maui County was able to respond to the economic crisis that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. We were the only county in the state with sufficient financial resources to answer community needs in the aftermath. Our county is again in position to provide aid as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years, I was fortunate enough to learn from our previous generation of leaders. As a community liaison, I worked with Senator Inouye and my father Goro on the reconstruction of the Kaumalapau breakwater following damage from Hurricane Iwa.

This infrastructure project was critical to ensure shipment of essential goods to Lanai and showed me the value of a strong partnership between our county, state and federal representatives.

Knowing the value of creating opportunities for Maui County on a broader level, I became involved with the National Association of Counties (NACo) after being first elected to the County Council. A great personal honor during my time in office was being elected unanimously as President of NACo for the 2014-15 term, representing all of NACo’s 3,069 counties.

As part of my presidential initiative, we attained congressional reauthorization of a national transportation act after building a coalition including members of Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, state departments of transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and port and airport authorities. Our coalition secured more than $100 billion for county-owned highways and bridges throughout the nation.

Closer to home, the county has renovated, updated and constructed facilities for all county departments on Lanai during my tenure. New projects are also underway, such as a multisport fieldhouse, a new youth center building with accompanying skate park and a nearly completed commercial kitchen within the Lanai Community Center that will enable local small businesses to create value-added products.

Growing up on Lanai in a steadfastly union family, we learned the values of hard work and caring for your neighbor. In public service, I always carried those values. I take immense pride in representing and fighting for a community as small, and often overlooked, as Lanai.

I thank the residents of Maui County for trusting me throughout my 20 years on the council. We did not always agree, and I did not always make the popular decision. But your trust in me to make those hard decisions has been the honor of my lifetime. Mahalo.

* Riki Hokama holds the council seat for the Lanai residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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