Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Kelly Drysdale, a candidate for Hawaii County Council, District 7, covering a portion of Kealakekua, Kona Scenic Subdivision, Kainaliu, Honalo, Keauhou, Kahaluu, Holualoa, Kona Hillcrest, Pualani Estates, Sunset View, Kuakini Heights, Kona Vistas, Alii Heights, Kona Industrial, Lono Kona. There is one other candidate, Rebecca Villegas.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the General Election Ballot.

Candidate for Hawaii County Council District 7

Kelly Drysdale
Party Nonpartisan
Age 59
Occupation Director of logistics, Kona Coffee & Tea Company
Residence Kailua-Kona


Community organizations/prior offices held

Volunteer and silent auction co-coordinator, Daniel R. Sayre Foundation; vice president, West Hawaii District Tennis Association; founding member and president, Kona Community Tennis and Recreation Association); founding member and vice president, West Hawaii Parks & Athletics Corporation; coordinator, Christmas with the Chefs scholarship benefit; USTA captain.

1. The latest volcanic eruption demonstrates that some homes and infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to lava flow. Should this change Hawaii County’s approach to development, and if so, how?

I think those areas that are at risk of being overtaken by lava flows should not be allowed to be “commercially” developed for residential purposes.

2. Are changes needed in how the County Council is run, and if so what are they?

Yes. I think that a “lay person’s” recap of each meeting should be published.

In a recent conversation with a present council member, I was told that it’s the council’s job to make laws. I asked, “How many laws that have become obsolete have been taken off the books?” I believe it’s equally important to take antiquated and irrelevant laws off the books. 

3. The Legislature authorized Hawaii County to implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge and the council chose to approve a 0.25 percent surcharge. What should the additional revenue be spent on?

The 0.5 percent GET increase has been put on hold by the County Council until January 2019. In the meantime, a new 0.25 percent surcharge was approved. This increased GET is predicted to recognize roughly $10 million annually and should be enough to balance the county budget. If I’m not mistaken, both have sunset clauses in 2020.

The additional revenues will then be allocated to roads. By doing this, the line items intended for those uses can be redistributed to other line items that are in need.  What’s more, if the state were to reimburse Hawaii County on the FEMA funds paid to the state in 2014 for Estelle and the lava flow, we would be sitting in a better financial position.

4. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?

If new development includes affordable housing, then yes. We are in crisis mode for housing as many of the available units which were formerly available to individuals and families are now being utilized as Airbnb and VRBO units. In conjunction with new development, we need to work on infrastructure – roads, water, sewers, etc. Developers also need to be held accountable for all facets of their contract.

5. What would you do, if anything, to strengthen police accountability?

I’ve always been of the school, “Lead by example.”

6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?

I think “lobbying” is geared more to those of state or national positions. Per “ethics,” I believe that the only thing a person is born with is their word. Once that word has been tarnished, that person fails to register as a trustworthy source. I am an honest person with the highest level of integrity, principles, and morals. If I see that someone is not acting in a principled fashion, I confront them. Per “financial disclosure laws,” I think that the way the amounts are represented (e.g. A = less than $1000, B = at least $1000 but less than $10,000, etc.…) is fair.

7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?

Public records should be just that, records that are available to the public. If they are scanned and placed online in a fashion that permits people easy access, there should be no charge. If they are documents that require filing and review by a judge or other entity, then, yes, I think minimal fees are necessary.

8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?

As mentioned above, I would have lay person’s notes from each council meeting published to a website that is exclusively meant for public access. Additionally, on the same site, I would have miscellaneous information published that affects the citizenry, e.g.: completion date of Queen Kaahumanu Highway; when the Judiciary Building is set to open; what is the status of cesspools; etc. On same said site, there would be a way for constituents to contact their council member. And then, of course, council members’ phone numbers and emails would be published. Also, an “open door policy” would be extended to all constituents wanting access to their council person.

9. What more should Hawaii County be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?

We have already taken measures with sunscreens and plastic bags. We should also look at mandating dissolving six-pack rings and making roads out of the plastics that wash ashore.

If we reduce fossil fuels, carbon dioxide will decrease. Since more gas from carbon dioxide is dissolving in the ocean, it lowers the pH of the water and can make it more difficult for reef-building organisms to reproduce. 

10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?

• Homelessness: I have had conversations with present and past council people, landowners, developers and movers and shakers in the community. I am not in favor of the presently proposed Village 9. This concept would start with creating something out of lava rock that is out of proximity to the homeless services. I have spoken with various individuals to find an alternative that is good-to-go (with some modifications), in town and close to those services.

• Kealakehe Regional Park: I am one of the founding members of West Hawaii Parks & Athletics Corporation. Since 2009, it has been our mission to create a regional park on the 193 acres that are makai of Ane Keohokalole; south of the West Hawaii Civic Center; mauka of Honokohau Harbor; and north of the Kona Police Station.

We have had meetings with Mayors Kenoi and Kim and various individuals from their administrations to get the environmental assessment preliminary engineering report executed.

Because the R-1 water from the treatment plant is intended for the park’s use, the park is an intricate part of the upgrade to the treatment plant.

Another benefit of this park would be to relieve the overused and overcrowded Makaeo District Park.