Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taking a closer look at some of the candidates and issues involved in Hawai‘i County’s mayoral race. As Saturday’s election nears, we bring you the story of Marlene Hapai. As HPR’s Sherry Bracken explains, this candidate’s background does not include time in local government or politics.
Marlene Hapai feels she’s had the training to be mayor from her work at University of Hawai'i, in business, and as a UH Regent “My administrative experience is strong. I’ve been a department chair, division chairs. I’m very good at program development. I was associate dean for College of Tropical Agriculture at UH Manoa, the president said it would be closing unless the enrollment started going up. I had to reorganize the entire college. I ended up coming up with the model… I left Manoa to build Imiloa. Imiloa was a challenge, the same challenges we have with Native Hawaiians and what they feel is right and scientists as to what they feel is right. The board of regents where we managed over a billion dollar budget and worked with 10 campuses and I feel very prepared.”
Hapai is looking at some of the county’s needs and the budget in a slightly different way than others…. her first focus is health and safety “because the budget for the county, about 45% of it deals with health and safety issues. Everything from fire, police, civil defense, solid waste, animal control.”
Hapai says there are creative says to get more funding for everything from roads to homeless solutions to education “Our federal grants are not very high… about $55 million. We can do a lot better at the federal level. We can attract much more private funding and shift some of the service programs from the county to the nonprofit organizations. If the budget increases because we have new revenues and new resources… that’s great. If it’s increasing on the back of our taxpayers, I don’t want that.”