Bainum still had a bright future


POSTED: Thursday, June 11, 2009

A physician turned public servant, Duke Bainum devoted himself to the betterment of Honolulu's cultural, environmental and economic quality. His death from an aneurysm late Tuesday night brings a sudden and premature end at age 56 of a distinguished and hard-working leader.

Born in Maryland and reared in Arkansas, Bainum arrived in Hawaii to fulfill his internship requirements following his graduation from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He practiced medicine in Honolulu as a staff member of the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Entering politics as a member of the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board, he was elected in 1990 to the state House of Representatives and in 1994 to the City Council, where he served two terms.

Bainum made his bid for mayor of Honolulu in 2004, focusing his campaign on troubles with traffic and urban sprawl, recognizing that economic growth did not conflict with the island's natural beauty. He largely financed his campaign with his own money, drawing criticism that he operated outside the more common system.

The Star-Bulletin endorsed Bainum's candidacy, noting his intellectual attributes and his understanding of Oahu's needs, along with his extensive network of community and business leaders while staying clear of awkward associations.

Mufi Hannemann defeated Bainum in that mayoral race. With Hannemann now expected to vacate the office midway through his second term to run for governor or the U.S. House, Bainum was the most highly-qualified to be his possible successor at Honolulu Hale among those mentioned as possible candidates.

Following the 2004 election, Bainum seemed to disappear from the islands, settling his family in Hot Springs, Ark., and becoming chief executive of Bainum Bancorp, bought by Bainum's father in 1984 and merged with another bank, headed by Duke and brother Tim Bainum, also a doctor. Duke Bainum recently stepped down as bank CEO.

It would have been a mistake to portray Bainum as a medical and financial aristocrat. Father Irvin Bainum was a plumber by trade, and the family household at one point consisted of the brothers, their parents, their grandmother and aunt and uncle. The parents rose from the Great Depression to build from scratch a motel in Maryland, and their “;hard work and perseverance eventually paid off,”; Bainum recalled in his political Web site.

Upon filing for the City Council election last year, Bainum told the online arkansasbusiness.com, “;It has always been my intention to maintain my permanent residency in Hawaii and, at some point, again seek elected office.”;