Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles examining contested Big Island primary election races. This story appeared in the July 27 edition.
By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Residents from Wainaku up through the Hamakua Coast have a few fresh faces to choose from in this year’s Hawaii County Council District 1 contest.
Five candidates are vying for the position being vacated by Dominic Yagong, a senior member of the council who has represented the district for 12 of the past 16 years.
They will square off in the Aug. 11 primary, with the top two moving on to the Nov. 6 general election.
One of them, Jo Kim, ran for the state House in 2008, while the other four are newcomers to Big Island politics, including Dominic Yagong’s daughter, Chelsea Yagong.
The race for the district includes newcomers and life-long residents.
While many cite agriculture and expanding access to the ocean and hunting lands as important issues, they each believe they bring something unique to the table.
Valerie Poindexter, 52, of Ookala is the human resources manager at Hamakua Health Center, and believes the island needs to do more to be able to support itself.
“I’d like to think we can be self-reliant again,” she said.
Poindexter also said the county should focus more on concerns of each community when setting policy.
“I want to make sure we get back into the communities, we get back to the grassroots,” she said.
Poindexter said she didn’t have an opinion on how to handle capacity issues at the Hilo landfill but would support encouraging residents to recycle more and produce less waste. She said she also needs to “defer until I have more information” regarding geothermal power.
Hawaii Electric Light Co. has proposed expanding geothermal operations on the island and is preparing to seek proposals.
Poindexter is also the Honokaa Community Association president and serves on the board of the Brantley Center.
She recently served on the Hawaii County Redistricting Commission.
Larry Gering, 70, of Wainaku is a retired business owner who is no stranger to campaigning.
While he has never held office, Gering said he was active in campaigns for the Democratic Party while living for 16 years in Las Vegas where he ran a car wash and other businesses. He ran for mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, where he grew up.
He referred to his involvement with campaigning as his “social hour” and said he is not afraid of lengthy council sessions.
“I love meetings. I just love meetings,” he said enthusiastically. “I’d go to three meetings a day if they were available.”
Gering said he chose to run for office because he was frustrated by deteriorating roads, primarily in Hilo.
For his district, he said he supports more open air markets, a museum in each community to promote tourism and more use of farm land.
Gering also supports the establishment of a casino on the island and home rule.
He moved to the Big Island seven years ago and has lived in the district for about a year.
Gering said he supports geothermal power and burning garbage to produce electricity.
Kim, 60, of Paauilo is an attorney who helped establish the county’s domestic violence legal hotline and a program for pro bono legal work.
Hawaii Women Lawyers named her Outstanding Woman Lawyer of 2011.
Kim said the island should be at the forefront of alternative energy and the county needs to “articulate a vision” for itself.
She described herself as someone who can “craft solutions” on complex issues.
“I feel like I”m a very kind of can-do person,” she said. “I like to get things done.”
Kim said she hasn’t formed an opinion on the garbage issue; she believes a buffer zone should be established for any new geothermal plants.
She has lived in the district since 1995.
Eric Paul D’Almeida, 51, a resident of Wainaku, where he was born, is a retired security guard who believes the county should do more to help small businesses.
He said that involves loosening or removing regulations, and considers himself a fiscal conservative.
“I want to make it easier for small businesses to thrive,” D’Almeida said.
He said the county should focus more on core services, such as public safety.
D’Almeida said he would like to see funding for the Police Department increased and noted that he sees his district as being under served.
Asked how the county should fund an expansion, he said he has some ideas but would “rather not disclose them.”
D’Almeida said he would privatize the county’s municipal golf course after being pressed on the issue.
He said he supports eliminating bus fares and is in favor of waste-to-energy projects.
D’Almeida also supports geothermal power.
He has a master’s degree in psychology and is pursuing a doctorate, he said.
Chelsea Yagong, 26, of Ahualoa told the Tribune-Herald in May that she sees parks, affordable housing, agriculture and economic development in general as important issues for the district.
A deli manager at Foodland in Waimea, she described herself as independently minded.
She said she would serve with “integrity, honor, sincerity.”
A profile on Chelsea Yagong appeared June 1 in the Tribune-Herald.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.