Aloha Margaret Wille

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WAIMEA — Long before Margaret Wille was elected to the County Council, she was working for the best interests of North and South Kohala, District 9, volunteering her professional knowledge as a land use attorney for the benefit of the people of the district and the county as a whole.

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WAIMEA — Long before Margaret Wille was elected to the County Council, she was working for the best interests of North and South Kohala, District 9, volunteering her professional knowledge as a land use attorney for the benefit of the people of the district and the county as a whole.

“I did a charter amendment for the public trust doctrine before I was on council, making the environment and cultural well-being a priority. We are actually responsible not just for the current generation, but for future generations,” said Wille.

Now as she is about to leave the council, she reflected, “I tend to be more of a big picture person. Everyone on the council has different roles and I’m asking: ‘Where do we want to be and how do we make it happen?’ The whole idea is of stewardship, the island, land and the people.”

As a council member, Wille translated lofty ideals into “feet on the ground” solutions.

“The charter amendment that I just passed was, how do we take that abstract thing and get it down into day-to-day decision making?” she said.

The accomplishments Wille is most proud of include traffic control — such as the connector road in Waimea and bus service; facilitating voices being heard; and her work as chairwoman of the County Council Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability.

“I fought for the connector road. That was the biggest thing I did; getting that settlement agreement and getting that road in,” she said.

As for mass transportation, “With intra-village bus service, Pete Hoffman brought it up and I thought about it. They ended up doing it in Hilo and Kona first, but it was really from me. If there was anything, that was probably the biggest thing for the Waimea area,” Wille said.

Because of the rural nature of the Big Island, it is often difficult for voices from North Kohala to be heard.

“One of the most important things to me was getting the video conferencing center in Kohala. It really put North Kohala on the map. There’s a lot of leadership in that community,” Wille said.

She has worked tirelessly to inform and involve the general public with what is happening in their county.

“I want the public to be part of that initial conversation of proposed solutions. Overall, a big accomplishment is all the articles making the public more aware so they can participate in an informed manner; letting people know what’s going on,” said Wille.

Getting voices heard has also been a priority for her within the Council.

“There’s an issue and I bring it out for discussion. If I stick my foot out and take a stand, then I get discussion. I try not to be afraid to bring up things that are controversial,” Wille said.

This has also been reflected in her bottom-up approach to creating County guidelines.

“I submitted a version of the General Plan based on what came out of all the CDP meetings. It addressed, where are our cultural assets? What do we do about social issues, economic issues, environmental issues, and homelessness? It all comes together,” said Wille.

As chairwoman of the County Council Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability, she has spearheaded “Zero Waste Hawaii” initiatives such as composting at transfer stations.

“I worked on compost, and enhanced mulch is going on right now. You can go to Kona and Hilo and get that, and by July 2018 we’re going to have a full compost program that is going to take in food scraps and compostables, getting all of that out of our landfill – 45-50 percent,” Wille said. “The farmers can then use it as compost and not pay $150 or more for a square yard of good quality compost.”

One of her more complex issues was GMOs.

“Bill 79 was the first big one that I worked on. I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” Wille said.

Citing the cumbersomeness of the bill, she withdrew it and rewrote it to create Bill 113, which eventually passed.

The goal was, “How to protect nonGMO organic agriculture, which is on the rise. How do we protect those agricultural lands from being contaminated by GMOs? A GMO grower can sue for profits from contaminated crops. That’s unjust,” said Wille.

And looking towards the future, “We ought to be pro-active and prevent that on this island and at the same time look towards future opportunity. After the bill passed, seed companies came in wanting to grow organic seed,” she said.

In the next few months she will take stock, spend more time with family and decide on the next step.

“I’m going to visit my daughter who’s ill, and take some time for myself,” Wille said. “I will take a little time and consider my options. I’m an attorney in private practice and have been putting off taking on more legal work. Before I was on the Council, I did it at my own expense. The nice thing about getting the job was I could do things in the public interest,” says Wille.

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Hopefully it’s just a hui hou and not aloha for Wille.

“I’ll be there somewhere, watching,” she said.

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