‘Dr. Kimo’ Alameda officially announces 2024 bid for Hawai‘i County mayor

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During a group photo with supporters Saturday evening on green space fronting Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo, Kimo Alameda’s 14-month-old grandson Milo Nakoa threw his arms up in celebration and excitement as the more than 120 people behind him cheered and held up campaign signs.

“That’s the future right there,” said “Dr. Kimo.”

Kimo Alameda’s 14-month-old grandson Milo Nakoa, right, waves his arms in celebration as Alameda and his wife Star throw shakas during a group photo with supporters Saturday evening in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

The sign-waving event they all had just come from was a prelude to a night that included live music, food, fun, keiki games, ‘ohana at the main pavilion at Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo, where Alameda made his official announcement that he is running in 2024 to become the next mayor of Hawai‘i County.

Before it was all said and done, a conservative estimate of about 200 supporters turned out, with some saying it was as many as 400 at one point who filled the pavilion to standing room only.

There are many reasons Alameda wants to be mayor.

“There’s over 200,000 people on the island and that’s 200,000 reasons already,” he said Saturday night, adding he thinks the Big Island deserves better, faster, more timely service and results from its government accompanied by aloha.


He also touted his work experience, saying it has led him to this point.

The 54-year-old most recently was chief of the Hawai‘i Island Fentanyl Task Force and previously served as the executive director for the Hawai‘i County Office of Aging under two former mayors, was CEO of Bay Clinic Health Center, helping manage its merger with West Hawai‘i Community Health Center during the COVID-19 pandemic to form the new Hawai‘i Island Community Health Center.

Alameda also has served as a mental health specialist and administrator for the Hawai‘i Department of Health, among working with and serving other private and public agencies and organizations.

Kimo Alameda, left, speaks with supporters and other community members Saturday night on stage at the main pavilion at Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo during his official announcement that he is running to be the next mayor of Hawai‘i County. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

He said that’s the kind of skill set needed today to tackle the complex problems the county — and world — face.

The Hilo native, who grew up in Waiākea Uka and whose family has roots in the Hawaiian homestead of Keaukaha along the shores of Hilo Bay, added that throughout the past six months following his unofficial announcement in July that he would seek the county’s top executive spot he’s heard the community’s outcry for a change as he toured the Big Island and hosted community listening sessions.


“They saw me, what I did with COVID. They saw that when the county and state were kind of on the sidelines for fentanyl, our team was on the front lines,” Alameda said. “So I think that’s the kind of leadership that our county is looking for. And they want change and they want energy, and I think I can bring that to the table.”

Asked what he heard from the community were the top issues the county faces, housing, housing, housing was No. 1, for which his plan, as part of his “Live. Work. Play.” platform, is simple: if you own your land, then you should be allowed to build an additional house on it.

“Why is the [Hawai‘i County Council] getting in the way of us building an additional dwelling on property we own?” Alameda asked during his announcement speech. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s private property.”

He said there are 6,000 people on the island that if they could, they’d move out of their parents’ house and into one right in their backyard. He knows, he has seven children of his own, two of whom said whenever he built an ‘ohana dwelling on his property, they’d be there.

Also, by allowing people to build on the land they already own, the construction industry would boom.


“Farmers will have jobs. Carpenters are going to have jobs. Electricians are going to have jobs. Drywallers. Everybody is going to start working,” Alameda told supporters. “The economy is going to be on bust in an awesome way and now everything is going to start moving.”

The housing conversation includes the topic of homelessness, which he sees on a regular basis. Alameda said a large portion of the houseless people he talks to are locals, many of them Native Hawaiians

A supporter of Kimo Alameda throws a shaka at a passing car Saturday evening while sign-waving for the candidate for Hawai‘i County mayor. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

They aren’t homeless because they ran out of money, they’re homeless because they ran out of relationships — they burned bridges because of mental illness or substance abuse.

“County government has to rise up to the challenge and be there for them,” Alameda told supporters. “We’ve got to look for these pu‘uhonua, these places of refuge, where homeless people can go and they get treatment services and they can get mental health services and they can get addiction services.”

Safety was No. 2 on people’s list of issues, right down to street lights.

“Right now, we don’t have enough lights on this island for our young people to feel safe out there at night,” Alameda said. “Our administration would do a complete Big Island inventory of the lights. We get people dying on the road because it’s too dark.”

There is a county light ordinance in place to keep light pollution from impacting the island’s astronomy sector, but he’s talked to the astronomers and they told him safety should come first.

“Why hasn’t the administration talked to the astronomers and revisited the light ordinance?” Alameda asked. “That does not make sense. We’ve got to feel safe, especially at night.”

He also spoke about combating domestic violence, saying the island needs to come to the table as a community to teach kane (men) that it’s never OK to lay a hand on a woman.

Connectivity is another issue Alameda plans to tackle if elected: “If you want to feel protected, we’ve got to get connected. So we’re going to connect the whole island.”

The “Work” portion of his campaign platform puts a focus on small businesses, which he called the backbone of the island’s economy. They hire the people who live here. The county has to work more and better to support them.

“If you walk around, it looks like a ghost town,” Alameda said, adding just take a look at Banyan Drive in Hilo. “We’ve got to bring back the energy, bring back the small businesses by supporting them and making it easy for them to hire our local people.”

He’s a big sustainability guy, but he’s not just focused on environmental sustainability — he said climate change is a given. But people aren’t leaving Hawai‘i because it’s too hot. They’re not leaving because the tides are too high and they’re not leaving because they can’t breathe.

“We are the most environmentally friendly state in the United States,” Alameda said. “People are leaving Hawai‘i because their jobs cannot sustain their way of life. Because it’s too expensive. So that’s why, in addition to an office of sustainability, we also need an office of economic sustainability.”

He said people also shared with him during those listening sessions the need for more parks and recreation in some areas of the island, especially West Hawai‘i. That hits the “Play” portion of his platform.

Supporters took a group photo with 2024 Hawai‘i County mayoral candidate Kimo Alameda after a sign-waving event Saturday along Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

Alameda said during his announcement that Old Airport Park in Kona is really the only place keiki have to play now. A regional park in Kealakehe was supposed to be built 20 years ago.

Alameda thinks the county government’s responsibility is to provide geographic equity when it comes to services and support.

“Our kids need places to play,” he said. “Recreation, gyms, parks, fields, beaches. These are the places that really protect our kids from mental illness.”

Kūpuna and veterans, too. He said the government can do a lot and his administration would explore additional ways to keep those groups active and push for more services and programs for them.

Alameda has nothing against incumbent Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth, who announced his bid for a second term last week during a rally at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo. They are good friends and he is close to people on the mayor’s team.

“We just bring a different set of skills,” he said. “Energy, chemistry, partnerships, networks and the ability to reach across the aisle to partner with different folks from different walks of life and different perspectives.”

Alameda said those are the kinds of traits the next four years will need in the county’s government, and his team can deliver.

“If you want change, you’re going to need radical change,” he said. “Not just, you know, small kine change because it’s true, 14,000 individuals are leaving the state every year. That’s not just Native Hawaiians. That’s local Caucasians. That’s local Japanese, local Filipinos, local Korean, local Polynesians. These are local people that’s leaving, and when they leave, they take the culture. So we’re losing Hawai‘i as well.”

That’s the root of his campaign slogan: Save Hawai‘i And Keep Aloha, or SHAKA. He also uses a double shaka. Why?

“Because we gotta double down on that,” Alameda said, adding it’s time to bust out of the mold that has been in place for the past nearly decade and finally start moving forward.”

To learn more about Alameda and his platform, visit his website.

Candidate filing for the 2024 election starts Feb. 1. So far, Roth and Alameda are the only two who have officially announced their runs for Hawai‘i County mayor.

  • “Dr. Kimo” Alameda speaks Saturday evening during his official announcement that he is running for Hawai‘i County mayor in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Supporters and other community members packed the pavilion at Wailoa River State Recreation Area on Saturday night to hear Kimo Alameda officially announce his bid to become the next mayor of Hawai‘i County. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • A person signs in for Kimo Alameda’s campaign rally Saturday night at the main pavilion at Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Kimo Alameda, who officially joined the 2024 race for Hawai‘i County mayor on Saturday night, speaks with a supporter Saturday night outside the main pavilion at Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Supporters of Kimo Alameda wave campaign signs Saturday along Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Kimo Alameda throws a double shaka as cars pass by on Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo during a sign-waving event with supporters Saturday. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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