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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

At charity tribute, Cayetano reflects on 8 years in office

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Ben Cayetano was the guest of honor yesterday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Coral Ballroom, where he received recognition for his years of public service. From left: The outgoing governor shares a light moment with Audrey Hidano of Nu'uanu, Lance and Jillian Inouye of Manoa, and Steve Hidano.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

A relaxed Gov. Ben Cayetano joked, reminisced and thanked his family and friends last night before a crowd of about 1,100 at a tribute dinner and fund-raiser honoring him and his eight years as governor.

The dinner, held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, raised about $200,000 for Child and Family Service, Hawai'i's largest private human services organization, and the Cayetano Foundation, which focuses on helping students who have succeeded in the face of financial and social obstacles.

But the night, which included a musical tribute and a crowd-pleasing comedy act heavy on Filipino humor, was clearly all about the governor. Cayetano took the opportunity to thank and praise those who have helped him and to express his optimism for Hawai'i's future.

"As I look back on my life, to have accomplished what I've accomplished has been a mixture of luck, of being at the right place at the right time, of people popping up in my life at different times to help me and to help guide me and of course a little work on my part," said Cayetano, 62, who leaves office Dec. 2 after eight years in office.

"Being governor of the state of Hawai'i is the absolute best job maybe in the world," he said. "The reason it's a great job is because Hawai'i is such a great place."

"This place has such a bright future," he said. "I'm so optimistic about Hawai'i's future. We're going to have problems here and there. If our president takes us into war we will be affected economically, no question about it, but we will bounce back and we will move on."

Cayetano, who has been known for pulling no punches even with political allies, acknowledged his reputation for saying things even when it wasn't politically popular.

"In my years, I've tried to call it as I see 'em," he said. "Say what has to be said, know what has to be done. It doesn't always work out. My wife tells me that maybe you can say things a little better, you know. But I grew up in Kalihi and sometimes it's a little hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But in the end we did what we thought was right."

BancWest chairman Walter Dods, a longtime friend of Cayetano, agreed.

"He speaks from the heart all the time," Dods said after the dinner. "Obviously all of our good friends wished he sometimes wouldn't say it the way he does, but I admire him for it."

"He really fought for people who didn't have a voice. He would go against his friends as quickly as he would go against people he didn't like. That's the amazing thing about it. I could work one week fund-raising (for him) and the next day he'd veto some bank bill. That's the way Ben was. And I respect him for that."

Among the many people Cayetano chatted and laughed with after the dinner was Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director Russell Okata, who has had heated disagreements with Cayetano over collective bargaining and government reform issues.

"We are the people he depended on to get elected and yet (he) did those things," Okata said. But "he did what he believed was right and for that I think we can grudgingly respect that."

"... We've had major, major disagreements but at the same time we have respected each other because of the honesty and the candor that we have been able to resolve our differences," he said.