Baptiste vows change
in Kauai government

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Bryan Baptiste began his four-year term as mayor of Kauai yesterday with an inaugural address long on aloha but short on specifics of his plans for the county.

"Today is the beginning of a four-year journey to a new era of government," Baptiste told several hundred guests at the county's convention center, "our first steps to the new place where the virtues of honor and integrity are held by all."

The speech was an echo of statements in Baptiste's mayoral campaign against longtime Councilman Ron Kouchi. "Leadership from the Heart" was Baptiste's slogan.

Although elected county offices on Kauai are nonpartisan, Baptiste is a Democrat who switched to the Republican Party when he first ran for County Council in 1996. He is the son of Tony Baptiste, longtime Democratic chairman of the County Board of Supervisors in the 1950s and 1960s. The title is the equivalent of mayor under the current municipal form of government.

Baptiste was sworn in yesterday afternoon following the first meeting of the new County Council.

He has filled all of his Cabinet positions except the county engineer, who heads the Public Works Department.

Baptiste has eliminated the Kauai Economic Development Office, saying he will restructure it, but has not announced definite plans.

The new mayor did not hold over any appointees of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka. Many of his top appointees have no experience in Kauai County government.

Gary Heu, Verizon's operations manager on Kauai and a 20-year county resident, became administrative assistant yesterday. He is Baptiste's top aide and will become mayor if Baptiste is for any reason unable to serve.

Kauai's new county attorney is Lani Nakazawa, a Kauai native with a long background in regulatory law for several state agencies.

Introduced at the inauguration but not yet formally announced by Baptiste was his new Finance Department director, Michael Tresler, also a Kauai native. Tresler is a certified public accountant and until recently has been director of finance for the Hawaii chapter of the American Heart Association.

Bernard Carvalho is the new director of Community Assistance, and Charles Hiramoto, a 24-year Kauai Fire Department veteran, is the county's new fire chief.

The new County Council includes three incumbents and four new members. Two of the four newcomers, former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura and Joe Munechika, previously served on the Council.

County of Kauai

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