Political Predictions, Awards, and Networking at Annual Chamber Luncheon

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The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce held its annual installation luncheon Friday at the Four Seasons Hualalai.

The luncheon, which featured political reporter and retired professor Dan Boylan as guest speaker, included a business expo, as well ashonoring nine outstanding West Hawaii residents.

As part of the annual membership luncheon, Mayor Billy Kenoi swore in the the 2012-2013 officers and directors, including Chairwoman Debbie Baker; Chair-elect Tracey Fosso, and Vice Chair of Finance Dale Suezaki.

“The new board, whose term begins July 1, will meet in August and determine the Chamber’s goals for the next two years,” said Vivian Landrum, president/CEO of KKCC.

Landrum pointed with pride to the fact that KKCC has successfully pursued the three goals it established for itself two years ago, namely to support the Thirty Meter Telescope, support the University of Hawaii Center-West Hawaii, and to ensure that a judiciary site complex was chosen.


Guest speaker Dan Boylan, a political reporter and retired professor, gave his perspective on Hawaii politics. Boylan noted that long-time political analysts had expected to see things shaken up with an influx of new names in the upcoming elections due to reapportionment, but that that didn’t happen.

Pointing to the Hawaii Island and Honolulu mayoral races Boylan said, “this is the year of the old folks coming back for renewed life.” Boylan also joked that here in Hawaii we honor our kupuna but that when it comes to political leaders perhaps we honor them a little too much. He noted Governor Abercrombie just turned 74; former governor Ben Cayetano, who is running for Honolulu mayor, and former mayor Harry Kim, who entered the Hawaii Island mayoral race at the last minute, both turn 73 this year; and our state’s senior senator Daniel Inouye turns 88 this September.

Boylan says it bothers him that Hawaii politics seems to have missed an entire generation of people who find it difficult to break into politics because seats at the county, state, and national level are repeatedly held by the same few names or people jumping from one office to another, i.e. Mufi Hannemann, Mazie Hirono, and Ben Cayetano, just to name a few. Boylan singled out Mayor Billy Kenoi, who he referred to as the ‘Shakespeare of pidgin’, and said it’s tough for younger candidates in their 40s when long- established political opponents, such as Harry Kim, enter a race.

While Boylan didn’t predict a winner in the Big Island mayoral race, he did predict that a Democrat would win the tightly contested U.S. senate race, a seat vacated by the retirement of 87-year-old Senator Daniel Akaka. Former Congressman Ed Case is facing Congresswoman Mazie Hirono in the primary on the Democratic side while former governor Linda Lingle and John Carroll are squaring off on the Republican ticket for the senate seat.


Although he feels it will be a close race, and that Linda Lingle will give everyone a run for their money, in the end Boylan feels a Democrat will win the senate race simply because the current president is a Democrat.

“Just as it’s tough for a Democrat to win in Arizona with [Republican] John McCain as the senior senator, it would be tough for a Republican to win a Hawaii senate seat with a Democrat from Hawaii in the White House.”

Aside from Boylan’s talk, the highlight of the luncheon was the announcement of the winners of KKCC’s 2012 Pualu Awards. In Hawaiian Pualu means “working together.” Created in 1979, the awards honor outstanding individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations for dedication and hard work in the West Hawaii community. This year there were nine winners in seven categories.

Honorees included Laurel Gregory for Community Education, Lipps & Son won the Environmental Awareness award for their work restoring the heaiau and surrounding area at the King Kamahameha Hotel after last year’s tsunami, the Sheraton Keauhou Resort and Spa won the culture and heritage award, and the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race won the visitor industry marketing award.


The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory and West Hawaii Community Health Center both won the business innovation award, while Kona Brewing Company and Hazel Beck each won chamber member of the year for a business and individual, respectively.

Virginia Isbell, a long-time fixture in the West Hawaii community, received a standing ovation when it was announced that she received the lifetime service award.

In addition to the luncheon, a business expo featuring 21 West Hawaii businesses was held giving companies an opportunity to showcase their products and services. The companies participating in the expo were diverse, ranging from Lex Brodie’s Tire and Service Center-Kailua Kona, to simplicityHR by Altres, Hawaii Montessori School, The Entrepreneur’s Source, A Hui Hou Crematory and Funeral Home, and Jack’s Diving Locker.

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