Lau quits county post, announces mayoral run

  • 2866033_web1_cropMr-and-Mrs-Wally-Lau.jpg
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  • 2866033_web1_Wally-Lau-and-family.jpg

HILO — Mayor Billy Kenoi’s top deputy quit his job Thursday and announced he’s running for mayor.

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HILO — Mayor Billy Kenoi’s top deputy quit his job Thursday and announced he’s running for mayor.

With the sun-splashed Queen Liliuokalani Gardens providing a green backdrop, Lau, 67, and his family met with a West Hawaii Today reporter to make his announcement.

Lau said he will evaluate Hawaii County’s needs through a three-pronged lens — bringing a balance by considering whether a proposal or program is advantageous to the people, to the economy and to the environment. He said he will focus on what is pono, or righteous, and what is lokahi, in harmony and balance.

“I will lead and conduct myself with honesty, humility and dedicate 110 percent of my energy to the job, to the people,” Lau said.

Lau isn’t required to quit his county job to run for the county’s top elected office. He decided to do that, he said, so he can concentrate full time on his campaign and to avoid any question of a conflict of interest.

Lau said he will continue the current administration’s efforts at being accessible and responsive to the community.

He denied that leaving the $119,000 position was a way to distance himself from Kenoi’s administration. The mayor’s pay is $132,000.

Lau declined to comment on what he thought of the controversy surrounding the incumbent mayor, but said he wasn’t concerned that political opponents may make a comparison with him and Kenoi, who is currently under investigation by the state attorney general and board of ethics for misuse of his county pCard credit card. Kenoi is term-limited after eight years and leaves office in December.

“How people think of it is how people think of it,” Lau said. “How people want to compare it with the current administration or any other administration, that’s up to them. I’m just focusing on my own canoe, my own campaign and what I’m planning to do.”

Lau’s own pCard use has been pretty straightforward, according to records.

It’s not known who will replace Lau as Kenoi’s managing director, or who will supervise the West Hawaii office, where Lau worked until Wednesday. Kenoi, in a text message, praised Lau for his seven years of service. He said resigning was Lau’s decision.

“We will miss him in our administration because Wally is a good man,” Kenoi said. “He is humble, kind, intelligent, and hard working. We wish him well.”

Candidate filing starts Monday and runs through June 7. Polls open for early voting Aug. 1, with primary Election Day on Aug. 13.

Other candidates who’ve said they’re running for mayor are former Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, Kawika Crowley, who won the 2012 Republican primary for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, and Wendell Kaehuaea, who’s run unsuccessfully for public office 21 times.

Hoffmann, who’s held more than a dozen talk story events since he announced his candidacy in September, said he’s not surprised that Lau entered the race.

“I’m looking forward to any opportunities to engage in productive discussions with the people,” he said.

Kaehuaea said there’s still a lot of work to do to make county government responsive to the people.

“We could use maybe more of an aloha spirit to the people who walk in,” he said. “They should serve the people instead of making people beg for the service.”

Crowley said being the mayor is like being the conductor of an orchestra. You don’t need to know how to play every instrument, he said, but you need to know when and how that instrument should come into the mix.

“Lau is an honest man of good character,” he said. “I hope we can all conduct ourselves in a reasonable, professional manner and let the public decide.”

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Lau is married to Sandra Lau and they have a son, Kawika, and a daughter-in law, Lahela. Born on Oahu, he returned to the home of his ancestors where his grandparents are from — Naalehu and Keauhou. He graduated from Damien High School and has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Central Washington State College.

Lau’s background is in social services. Prior to his stint with the county, he was executive director for The Neighborhood Place of Kona, director of alternative education for Kamehameha Schools, program director for E Ala Ike — Kaplan, a therapeutic school for special needs students and The Salvation Army Residential Treatment Center for Children.

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