During a conversation four years ago, Linda Lingle surprised me by exhibiting a serious regard for the concept of historic preservation. She had a businesslike approach. History and culture are part of the infrastructure, she said, as important as water and electricity. It's what makes us unique in Hawaii. Deny or destroy our history, and future generations are cut off from the past and visitors have no reason to visit. It was a refreshingly logical and common-sense reaction for a politician.
The governor-elect will soon have a chance to put her money where her mouth is. First spouse Vicky Cayetano -- not only a successful businesswoman and problem-solver but someone who apparently has high regard for cultural preservation -- spearheaded a plan to turn Washington Place into a living museum and ceremonial venue. She handled it with two smart moves -- building a new home for future governors and their families and by hiring former Iolani Palace director Jim Bartels to turn the rundown Washington Place into a Liliuokalani-era showpiece.
Lingle doesn't have a "first spouse" (neither did Ben Cayetano when he moved in!), and so it will be up to her alone to keep the ball rolling. As a historic site, Washington Place is unlike any other in the world and should be a shining example of Hawaii's unique heritage.