Gov. David Ige appointed Kaiali’i Kahele to his late father’s state Senate seat Tuesday.
Sen. Gil Kahele, who died on Jan. 26, represented Senate district one which encompasses the greater Hilo area.
Kai Kahele will take office once the State Senate qualifies him and administers the oath of office.
The Senate leadership later in the day welcomed Kahele’s appointment.
“I congratulate Kai on his appointment to the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English. “I know he has the best interests of the community at heart, and we will work with him to ensure his transition to the Senate is quick and seamless. I know Kai was well-trained by his father to handle the work of the Senate.”
“I appreciate the work the staff of the late Senator Kahele has been doing to serve the constituents of District 1 during this time and I know they will be important in continuing to provide support for Kai as we move forward this Session,” said Senate President, Ronald D. Kouchi.
Once the oath of office is administered, Kahele will serve on the following Senate committees: Higher Education and the Arts, Education, Judiciary and Labor, and Tourism and International Affairs.
“My father led by example, and community service was part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am honored to carry on his legislative initiatives. In addition, I intend to focus on job creation by strengthening workforce opportunities and small business in Hilo and the state, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for Hawaii Community College and UH-Hilo,” Kahele said.
Kahele lives in Hilo where he is a Major in the Hawaii Air National Guard and a combat veteran C-17 instructor pilot. In 2005, he was awarded a National Defense Service Medal and a USAF Air Medal for combat missions flown in Afghanistan.
Most recently, Kahele received the Guard Officer of the Year award at Hickam Air Force Base.
He is also a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines, a UH-Hilo adjunct faculty member and the executive director of the nonprofit Pa’a Pono Miloli’i. In 2015, Kai was a crew member on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s canoe Hikianalia.
Kahele is a graduate of Hilo High School and UH-Manoa where he earned a B.A. in education while playing on the UH-Manoa men’s volleyball team as an outside hitter. He was named Most Inspirational Player in 1997.