Maile David will lead the County Council for the two-year term beginning next month, following an organizational meeting held shortly after the election.
The council is also slated to create a new committee to deal with climate change, according to resolutions that will be voted on Dec. 7.
David, who represents District 6, covering a portion of North Kona, South Kona, Ka‘u, and the greater Volcano area, is scheduled to be voted officially as chairwoman at the Dec. 7 council meeting following inauguration ceremonies. Current Council Chairman Aaron Chung, of Hilo, will be vice chairman.
David and Chung had nothing but kind words to say of each other.
“I just want to say that Maile was always there during the past two years when I sought advice on various matters,” Chung said Monday. “I respect her 100% and she can expect the same assistance from me that I’ve had from her.”
“I think between me and Aaron, I think we make a good team. His legal experience is very appreciated,” David said. “He brings out a lot of issues and questions that makes the council body think about things.“
David, 68, currently the Finance Committee chairwoman, is known for her calm voice, steady hand and firm commitment to procedures when chairing meetings. She won her latest term with no challengers and will be term-limited in 2022.
Council members serve two year terms, despite repeated ballot questions seeking to expand them to four years. The most recent charter amendment failed in the Nov. 3 general election with just 42.2% voting yes and 47.8% voting no, and the rest leaving the question blank.
The returning council members, along with the members-elect, held a meeting to decide the new lineup. Such private meetings are allowed because of what the state Office of Information Practices calls an “inadvertent loophole” in the Sunshine Law. Because the incoming council members haven’t yet been inaugurated or sworn in to a new term, they’re exempt from having to conduct new business in public, as long as the sitting council members don’t discuss business currently before the existing council, according to a 2002 OIP opinion that “strongly recommends” the boards not assemble privately “in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law.”
The incoming council also created a new committee. The Committee on Climate Resilience and Natural Resource Management will address climate change, along with the protection, preservation and enhancement of the environment and natural resource management. It will be chaired by Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, with Hamakua Councilwoman-elect Heather Kimball as vice chairwoman.
Villegas said she requested the committee be created, adding that both Honolulu and Maui have similar ones.
“This new committee represents Hawaii County’s willingness to prioritize the tough conversations surrounding climate change and to align with our sister counties in the efforts being made to find solutions,” she said. “How we manage our natural resources directly impacts our potential for resilience as we navigate a path to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
Committees are composed of all nine council members, and unlike in the state Legislature, committee chairmen can’t keep a bill from being heard. Still, there’s a certain amount of power in being able to control the flow of the debate.
“From the input from council members, I think we found a really fair assignment as a group,” David said, noting that every member has a leadership position. “Everyone had a lot of input and I think everyone was assigned what they really are passionate about.”
Other committees are:
Parks and Recreation and Public Safety, to be chaired by Kona Councilman-elect Holeka Inaba, with Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder as vice chairman.
Finance, with Kanealii-Kleinfelder as chairman and Kimball as vice chairwoman.
Public Works and Mass Transit, currently chaired by Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy with Kanealii-Kleinfelder vice chairman, will continue under that leadership.
Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management will continue to be chaired by Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. Inaba will serve as vice chairman.
Governmental Operations, Relations and Economic Development, with Kimball as chairwoman and Kierkiewicz vice chairwoman.
Human Services and Social Services, with Lee Loy as chairwoman and Kierkieiwcz vice chairwoman.