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Big Island Mayor Harry Kim Thought He Was In Tune With Voters

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Harry Kim

Hawai?i County Mayor Harry Kim was voted into retirement by Big Island voters in Saturday's 2020 primary election. Kim says he was surprised by the loss. But in reflecting on the last four years, he says he wouldn’t change a thing.

Hawai?i Island voters rejected incumbent Harry Kim?s bid for a fourth term as mayor of the Big Island.

“I really thought I had a handle on the kind of government they wanted. But this election made me wake up,” says Kim. “You thought you had a handle but people showed you that you don?t, and I accept that.”  

This is Kim?s third term as mayor and a rough one at that. Since taking office, he?s dealt with a volcanic eruption, the contentious standoff on Mauna Kea, and now a global pandemic that has left thousands of Big Island residents unemployed.

“I look back because I was asked, 'What would you have changed on these things? Maybe one of your downfalls was Mauna Kea – would you change that?' I said, 'Absolutely not.'”

Kim has spent more than 40 years in county government, most of it as head of Hawai?i County Civil Defense. He says an end to his term as mayor isn?t an end to public service. 

“It doesn?t matter what your job is, it?s the consistency of what you work for – and that's to make this a better place. So that's what I'll do. I just don't know what,” says Kim. “I never thought I'd be mayor to tell you the truth.” 

He says the requirements of public office weighed most heavily on his family. After the primary election results came in, Kim says his wife Bobbie turned to him.  

“She said, ?Do you know this will be your first Christmas that the day after Christmas you won?t have to say, ‘I gotta go to work?’” 

Kim?s last day in office is December 5, after which he says all his attention will be on his family.

“And maybe they’ll regret that!” says Kim.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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