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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

Newly elected get key duties

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

A shift in leadership at the state House of Representatives has afforded some of its newest members with unique opportunities to advance, some even before they have been sworn into office.

An unsuccessful attempt to oust Speaker Calvin Say opened several committee chairman and vice-chairman positions, which Say awarded to 16 members with four years of experience or less.

Of the 13 freshmen entering the House, eight will be committee vice chairs, while some of the others will be assistant floor leaders.

Nine of them will sit on the powerful Finance Committee, which Say has traditionally used as a training ground for freshmen members since budget deliberations give members a broad and quick overview of state government.

"I'm just excited because I think they have a lot to learn and a lot to contribute," he said. "I just wanted to have the freshmen catch the train and move ahead, rather than delay the organization and just wait, wait, wait."

The freshmen, who represent nearly every island in the state, and some of its most affluent and poorest districts, bring diverse perspectives to the House, and some common interests.

They also bring experience. Seven have worked as aides to elected officials, while another two have held elected office themselves.

Some, like Puna Representative-elect Faye Hanohano, however, are getting involved in politics for the first time.

"I'm a real freshman," said the state corrections officer, whose involvement with the United Public Workers union encouraged her to run for office.

"I saw there was a need to protect the working class and our good wages and benefits and retirement, and making sure all the benefits we have are kept, instead of done away with," she said.

This will also be the first time South Maui Representative-elect Joe Bertram III gets to work in the state Capitol, although he has run for office five times in the past.

"I'm not your typical guy, in terms of public service," said Bertram, who has worked as a waiter and valet, and is more likely to be found in swim trunks than collared shirts.

The rubber-slipper-shod greenways advocate will bring his push for safe pedestrian routes and bikeways to the Legislature, along with his community's demands for a second Maui hospital.

On the other hand, Representative-elect James Tokioka, who will represent Lihu'e and Koloa, brings 10 years of County Council experience with him.

He said Kaua'i's interests are similar to the rest of the state's concerns: affordable housing, traffic congestion and public education.

Traffic congestion is an issue throughout the state, including Makakilo, Kapolei and Royal Kunia, which has selected new representation by electing Rep. Sharon Har.

Har said constituents in her district are concerned about traffic congestion and overcrowded schools.

"That's been a huge point of concern because development is continuing without the infrastructure being in place."

Representative-elect Karen Awana, a Republican, takes over the Nanakuli, Honokai Hale district from Democrat Michael Kahikina.

Awana sees herself in position to have Republican Gov. Linda Lingle's ear, and she also hopes to work collaboratively with the Democrats in the Legislature.

"I really, truly believe we have to work extra hard to build bridges so everyone has a piece of the pie," she said. "I'm hoping we can distribute the wealth equally throughout the state."

With an average age of 44, Say says the freshman class will help take Hawai'i into the future.

The youngest member in the group, marathon runner Representative-elect Della Au Bellati, 32, is looking far into the future, putting long-term care at the top of her priority list, along with affordable housing and rentals, a keen issue in her Makiki and Tantalus district.

Representative-elect Angus McKelvey, 38, from West Maui, shares much in common with his Kapolei colleague, Har, who is 37. A particular interest is solving traffic congestion issues.

"If you look across the horizon ... we really need to be sinking our (budget) surplus into infrastructure, because it seems to be falling apart all over the state," he said.

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Faye Hanohano (D-4th)

Born: Dec. 21, 1953 in Hilo.

Job: Lieutenant, adult corrections officer, Kulani Correctional Facility.

Lives: Pahoa.

Experience: ACO since 1982. Delegate to AFSCME International Convention. Merrie Monarch court princess 1981-82. Kamehameha Alumni Assn.

Angus McKelvey (D-10th)

Born: March 9, 1968 in Honolulu.

Job: Vice president, Anaka Productions publishing/graphics firm.

Lives: Lahaina.

Experience: Lahaina Bypass Now. Lahaina Rotary. West Maui Taxpayers Assn.

Joe Bertram III (D-11th)

Born: April 29, 1957 in Boulder, Colo. In Hawai'i since 1966.

Job: Director, Greenways Maui nonprofit.

Lives: Kihei.

Experience: Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee. Maui Planning Commission. Mayor's Smart Growth Advisory Committee. Kihei Youth Center board.

James Tokioka (D-15th)

Born: Aug. 16, 1961 in Honolulu.

Job: Kaua'i County councilman. Consultant for restaurants, hotel, time-share companies.

Lives: Lihu'e.

Experience: Kaua'i Council 1996-present. Coach, Lihu'e Little League. State director, Easter Seals of Hawaii.

Roland Sagum III (D-16th)

Born: Feb. 11, 1955 in Honolulu.

Job: Planning and development coordinator, Kikiaola Land Co.

Lives: Kalaheo.

Experience: Principal planner, Applied Planning Systems. Trustee, Kaua'i Memorial Gardens. Kaua'i Civil Service Commission. Marine and Coastal Zone Advocacy Council.

Gene Ward (R-17th)

Born: 1943 in Conneaut, Ohio.

Job: Peace Corps country director transitioning to Peace Corps consultant.

Lives: Hawai'i Kai.

Experience: State House 1990-98. Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. Vietnam veteran (translator). Senior democracy adviser, United States Agency for International Development 2000-05.

Tom Brower (D-23rd)

Born: March 3, 1965 in Honolulu.

Job: Communications director, Democratic Party of Hawaii. Executive director, Honolulu Salary Commission.

Lives: Waikiki.

Experience: Waikiki Neighborhood Board. Waikiki Citizens Patrol.

Della Au Belatti (D-25th)

Born: March 14, 1974 in Honolulu.

Job: Attorney.

Lives: Makiki.

Experience: Attorney for Senate majority research office. Member, Campaign Spending Commission. Pac-5 assistant track and cross country coach.

Karl Rhoads (D-28th)

Born: Jan. 24, 1963 in St. Joseph, Mich. In Hawai'i since 1995.

Job: Attorney in private practice.

Lives: Downtown.

Experience: Downtown Neighborhood Board. Chinatown Citizens Patrol. Legislative aide to Rep. Marilyn Lee. Intern to U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

Joey Manahan (D-29th)

Born: Jan. 31, 1971 in Manila. In Hawai'i since 1991.

Job: Full-time candidate.

Lives: Kalihi.

Experience: Assistant, Neighborhood Commission. Specialist, Office of Elections. Legislative assistant.

John Mizuno (D-30th)

Born: Aug. 2, 1964 in Honolulu.

Job: Office manager and legislative aide to Rep. Dennis Arakaki.

Lives: Kalihi Valley.

Experience: State special investigator 1998-2003. Kalihi Kids in Sports Program.

Sharon Har (D-40th)

Born: Jan. 13, 1969 in Springfield, Ill. In Hawai'i since 1996.

Job: Attorney, Bays Deaver.

Lives: Kapolei.

Experience: Aide to Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. Executive secretary, Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii.

Karen Awana (R-44th)

Born: Feb. 20, 1966 in Honolulu.

Job: Legislative aide. Naval reservist.

Lives: Nanakuli.

Experience: Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board. Chair and founder, Wai'anae Coast Weed and Seed. Drug Free Zone/nonprofit chair, Wai'anae Coast Sunset on the Beach. O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Org.

The House districts that have new faces representing them are: 4th (Puna); 10th (West Maui); 11th (South Maui); 15th (Lihu'e, Koloa); 16th (Po'ipu, Ni'ihau); 17th (Hawai'i Kai, Kalama); 23rd (Waikiki, Kaka'ako); 25th (Makiki, Tantalus); 28th (Downtown); 29th (Kalihi); and 30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley).

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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