The who’s who of Hawaii’s COVID-related decision makers

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Statue of King Kamehameha in Honolulu. This king was the first to unite and rule the Hawaiian Islands.

While we await the details of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program, we thought it would be a good idea to explain a little bit who the key decision makers are and their area of influence.

State Level

Let’s start at the state level where it’s straightforward. Hawaii’s top elected-officials who are developing policies to limit the spread of COVID-19 are as follows:

Governor – David Ige

Director of Health – Dr. Bruce Anderson

Director of Hawaii Emergency Management – Major General Kenneth Hara

Lieutenant Governor – Dr. Josh Green

In addition to these top officials, there are also Hawaii house of representatives as well as Hawaii senators that are elected by districts.

County Level

Quite often, Governor Ige states that he’s making decisions along with the county mayors. So, let’s address who they are and the county organization.

Hawaii has five counties. The names and organization of the counties might not be as you expect. At least they weren’t to me when I first looked into the structure many years ago.

The five counties and their mayors are organized as follows:

Hawaii County is composed of the entire island of Hawaii, which is also known as the Big Island. The county mayor is Harry Kim. The website for Hawaii County is hawaiicounty.gov.

Maui County is composed of the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai. The county mayor is Michael Victorino. The website for Maui County is mauicounty.gov.

City and County of Honolulu is composed of the entire island of Oahu. The county mayor is Kirk Caldwell. The website for the City and County of Honolulu is honolulu.gov.

Kauai County is composed of the entire island of Kauai. (We’re unclear if the island of Ni’ihau is included in Kauai County or not. Ni’ihau is sparsely populated, privately owned and visitors aren’t allowed to freely visit.)Β  The county mayor is Derek Kawakami. The website for the County of Kauai is kauai.gov.

Kalawao County is a tiny county which consists of the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the northern side of the island of Molokai. With a population of 88 at last count, it’s the smallest county in the United States in both size and population. The county of Kalawao is most known for being the site of the Hansen’s Disease colony. It does have a small airport. We are not actually sure if there’s a mayor of Kalawao at this point in time.

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The county mayors are the top elected officials at the county level.Β They make more specific decisions for their county with the permission of Governor Ige. For example, the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu recently ordered the closure of bars for three weeks for his county. Another example is at the start of the virus spread, the mayor of Kauai ordered curfews.

While it might be easy to second guess some of the mandates, we do not envy the difficult decisions that they’ve had to make in recent months.

2 comments
  1. I know I’ve been vocal and I don’t like being clumped in with irresponsible people. Having said that, I will always love Hawaii, not just the beauty but the culture and history. I hate the pandemic happened. We all do. And I know that Governors and other Government entities are doing their best, for their States. It’s all new, unknown and deadly. They have a huge responsibility to the people they serve. They’re just trying to keep the people of Hawaii safe. Again, love Hawaii, we will be back when things settle down and hopefully get back to normal. It’s a trying time for everyone.

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