It’s been 2 weeks since Derek Kawakami took on the role of Mayor of Kauai. Kawakami succeed Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who reached his term limit. 

“I haven’t had that feeling in awhile where I wake up in the morning and I want to get to work. It’s been a blessing, I’m loving it,” said the former state representative. 

Though he admits, some things took him by surprise. 

“The sheer amount of paperwork that’s involved! I got to give my hat off to Mayor Carvalho and every other mayor out there. Because I tell you what, they got the job done, and yet they were at every single event. I don’t know how they did it! The amount of time you have to be in the office to take care of the daily grind that comes with it and still get to come to those events… you have to have a lot of energy,” said Kawakami.  

But at 41 years old, Kawakami says there’s no excuse! He’s intent on making the garden isle a better place to live. The new mayor wants to build more affordable rentals. 

And he can’t forget about towns like Wainiha and Haena, still recovering from April’s flash flooding disaster. 

“The challenging thing, is FEMA is designed to allow you to rebuild to what infrastructure looked like pre-disaster. When you take a look at mayors and governors who have gone through disasters, the first thing you hear is, we are going to rebuild to where we were before. But I’m not convinced that’s the right thing to  do. We need to be innovative and see how Mother Nature plays into the factor. Is Hanalei River, the new norm…where it’s going to flow moving forward? If it is, we need to rethink and redesign where we’re building our infrastructure and how to mitigate. Things will have to change,” he said.