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Former Tribune-Herald publisher jumps into politics

Jim Wilson will see how the other shoe fits as he seeks a seat on Hawaii County Council.

The former Hawaii Tribune-Herald publisher filed last week to run in the District 6 election, starting his first foray into politics since leaving the fourth estate more than a decade ago.

If elected, Wilson will be in the position of creating public policy rather than commenting on, or even criticizing, the actions of lawmakers as his past life as the chief of the East Hawaii newspaper sometimes required.

But the 80-year-old Volcano resident, who was publisher from 1973-2002, said he’s willing to give it a chance.

“This is a new game for me,” he acknowledged.

“As a newspaper, we spent a lot of time criticizing,” Wilson added. “It’s time to put up or shut up.”

While he no longer buys ink by the barrel, the candidate said he can offer “common sense business practices” as a council representative.

But he’s also taking a somewhat nonchalant approach to the campaign, foregoing for now any specific policy statements.

“I think it’s something that I can do some good,” he said when explaining why he chose to run.

When asked if he has a platform, Wilson said, “Not at this point. I’m still working on it.”

Areas where he thinks the county can improve include attracting new businesses and streamlining the processing of building permits.

Wilson also stopped short of criticizing actions of current or past members.

“I think, just overall, as a County Council, they lose sight of what the real issues are sometimes,” he said.

While active in several civic groups, Wilson acknowledged he hasn’t invested a lot of time in County Council affairs since retiring.

He described his knowledge as average for those who follow the news. He also said he hasn’t attended a council meeting since he retired as publisher.

But Wilson said he doesn’t lack institutional knowledge.

“I definitely know the community; I know the island,” he said.

Wilson, when asked about his age, jokingly referred to himself as an “old fart” but added he doesn’t think that should be an issue for voters.

“You can be old, it just depends on your mind,” he said.

“Some days, I feel 100, some days I feel 60. So, take your pick.”

The district stretches from Volcano to North Kona.

Wilson is the secretary of the Rotary Club of South Hilo, president of the Pacific Tsunami Museum board of directors and board member of the Volcano Arts Center. He is also a member of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and Big Island Press Club.

His wife, Audrey, is a food columnist for the Tribune-Herald.

Email Tom Callis at


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