Updated 2/16/2016

Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that he has appointed Kaiali’i Kahele to fill his late father’s seat in the state Senate.

Sen. Gil Kahele, 73, died Jan. 26. He had represented Hilo since 2011.

“Kai has extensive community support and is committed to completing the work of his father,” Ige said in a release. “He has a broad vision for the future of this district and for all of Hawaii Island that will serve his constituents well.”

Kaiali'i Kahele has been appointed to represent state Senate District 1.
Kaiali’i Kahele has been appointed to represent state Senate District 1. Courtesy: Governor's Office

The Senate must qualify him and administer the oath of office before he can start serving.

Kahele is a major in the Hawaii Air National Guard and a combat veteran C-17 instructor pilot, according to the governor’s office, and has been honored many times for his military service.

“My father led by example, and community service was part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Kahele said. “I am honored to carry on his legislative initiatives. In addition, I intend to focus on job creation by strengthening workforce opportunities and small business in Hilo and the state, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for Hawai‘i Community College and UH-Hilo.”

Kahele is also a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines, a University of Hawaii-Hilo adjunct faculty member and the executive director of the nonprofit Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i, the release says. Kai was a crew member last year on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s canoe Hikianalia.

He graduated from Hilo High School in 1992 and UH-Manoa in 1998, earning a degree in education while playing on the men’s volleyball team as an outside hitter. He was named Most Inspirational Player in 1997, the release says.

The Hawaii County Democratic Party provided a list of three nominees last week for Ige to choose from to fill the empty seat. The list included Kahele, Dolly Strazar and Kaloa Robinson. The governor had 60 days to make the appointment.

The term ends in 2018.

Update  Senate President Ron Kouchi said in a statement that he welcomes Kai to the Senate.

“I know he holds many of the strong convictions and commitment to community service as that of his father,” he said. “I look forward to working with Kai in his new role as Senator for the first district.”

A Senate news release says Kahele will serve on the following committees: Higher Education and the Arts; Education; Judiciary and Labor; and Tourism and International Affairs.

Read Kahele’s resume below.

About the Author