By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Mayor Billy Kenoi started his second term, members of the new County Council took their oaths of office, and Mitch Roth became the county prosecuting attorney Monday.
Hundreds of friends, family members and supporters turned out in the sweltering Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo to watch the biennial inauguration ceremony, and to listen to the new leaders of the county pledge to get back to work.
“I look forward to working with you to improve infrastructure in all of our districts islandwide, because the beneficiaries of our hard work are our families,” Kenoi said. He added later: “I look forward to accomplishing much in the short time that we’ve been given.”
Kenoi thanked outgoing Managing Director Bill Takaba, who was retiring after 39 years with Hawaii County, and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
The mayor did not unveil any specific policy goals, although he did use the words “love,” “respect” and “aloha” seven times each in a speech lasting less than 8 minutes.
“I look forward to four incredible years, an opportunity and privilege granted to few. I promise to work hard every single day and night, and to do so with love, respect and aloha,” he said.
Prosecutor Mitch Roth was sworn in next.
“One of my goals is to staff the office with people who have ethical integrity, a sound moral compass and a passion for justice, as well as treating everyone with dignity and respect,” Roth said in his statement.
“My personal philosophy of the Prosecutor’s Office is that we do God’s work to ensure justice,” Roth said. “We will try to improve the time it takes to get cases through the system, because nobody should have to wait for years for things to get to the starting line.”
“With the council that we have here, the mayor that we have, and the wonderful community that we have, together we will make this community safe and healthy,” he said.
Nakamura swore in the County Council next, and incoming Chairman J Yoshimoto spoke for the nine.
“Family and folks, take a good look, because we’ll be working really hard, and you may not see the council members at home very much, because we’ll be really working hard,” Yoshimoto said.
Each of the nine council members wants to make the county a better place, Yoshimoto said.
“Our job ahead of us for the next two years is to work together. As our mayor and our prosecutor just said, together we can and together we will.”
“When you ask me what I foresee for the next two years, I see a lot of hard work,” Yoshimoto said. “I see a lot of challenging issues that will come up before us, and I believe nine of us can make the tough decisions, along with the mayor, to make sure our island home is a better place.”
“We’re in this together as one, and I’d ask everyone for their continued support,” he said.
The council members for the 2012-2014 term are Valerie Poindexter, 1st District; Yoshimoto; 2nd District; Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, 3rd District; Greggor Ilagan, 4th District; Zendo Kern, 5th District; Brenda Ford, 6th District; Dru Kanuha, 7th District, Karen Eoff, 8th District, and Margaret Wille, 9th District.
The council’s new focus on working with the mayor is a pivot from the majority that adjourned Monday morning for the last time.
Prior to the inauguration, the outgoing council met for the sine die session, a customary opportunity for the council members to sheathe their daggers and say a few kind words about those who were leaving.
“For me, you’re the most courageous council member, ever,” Ford said to Chairman Dominic Yagong, lauding him for “standing up for what is right, even if the odds were against you.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege,” Yagong said. He thanked his staff and called Jamae Kawauchi’s appointment as clerk “the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Councilman Fred Blas, defeated in a bid for re-election, was on the mainland to be with his family in the wake of the death of his brother, and the council members offered their condolences.
“His heart was in the right place. He did a lot of things to his community,” Councilman Donald Ikeda said of Blas.
“He was one that was not afraid to get his hands dirty,” Yagong said.
Councilman Angel Pilago praised Hoffmann, who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, as a champion of the county’s then-free Hele-On bus system, and for his role in organizing golf tournaments to benefit the Food Basket.
“We didn’t always agree, but I have to admit that you’ve frequently been right,” Ikeda said, calling the free bus “a really good idea.”
Like Hoffmann, Ikeda also took office in 2004. Facing term limits, the former clerk ran for the state Senate and was defeated in the Aug. 11 election.
“I hope that you enjoy your retirement and maybe we might be seeing you coming back in two years from now,” Onishi said. Most of the departing council members received similar expressions of hope that they might return in 2014.
“When I ran for office, all I wanted to do was to make our community and the island of Hawaii a better place to live,” Ikeda said. “I just love the people of Hawaii and I just want it to be a better place.”
Pilago, who chose not to seek re-election, was thanked for his ability to bring a Hawaiian cultural perspective to the council.
“I want to really commend you for the water improvement districts you did in North Kona,” Ford said.
While all of the council members were thanked for their service, some of the strongest praise was reserved for outgoing Councilwoman Brittany Smart. She was elected in 2010 but opted to run for the state House of Representatives after redistricting placed her in the same council district as Ford. Smart lost a Democratic primary race to Richard Onishi, brother of Dennis Onishi.
All agreed that Smart had lived up to her name.
“Ms. Smart, you are truly the most intelligent woman I have ever met,” Ford said.
“She’s truly intelligent and she has a very good sense of how to address an issue,” Hoffmann said.
Yagong addressed his colleagues one last time before closing the meeting.
“I will pound the gavel for the very last time as chair. This meeting is …”
“We need to vote” on the motion to adjourn, Kawauchi interrupted.
Having done so, Yagong pounded his gavel, bringing to a close another tumultuous two-year term of the County Council.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.