Kauai’s newest County Council member is Ross Kagawa, a former councilman who was the first runner-up for a seat on the seven-member legislative body in the November election.

Kauai County Councilman Ross Kagawa was appointed to a fifth term on Wednesday.

The council appointed Kagawa to fill an empty seat created by the resignation of Luke Evslin last week. Evslin left the council to accept Gov. Josh Green’s appointment to fill an empty House seat that covers the island’s east side.

The District 16 House seat was vacated by Jimmy Tokioka, who accepted a new role as Airports Division deputy director in Green’s administration.

Kagawa, 56, of Lihue, previously served four consecutive two-year terms on the council. He termed out in 2020.

The council approved his appointment by a vote of 5 to 1, with Councilman Addison Bulosan casting the lone vote of dissent.

Kagawa campaigned on a platform to ease the high cost of living for working Kauai families and address the dearth in middle class, affordable and low-income housing.

He proposed a tax break, or some similar incentive, to encourage homeowners to sell their properties to Kauai residents at a discounted price that could be subsidized as part of a new housing policy to tamp down on homes getting gobbled up by second homeowners and off-island investors. 

Evslin, whom Kagawa replaces, was also a staunch affordable housing advocate who tried to ease the island’s dire housing crisis.

During the election Kagawa called for closer scrutiny of government spending, especially during periods of high inflation. He also made the case for quickly siting a new landfill — a task county leaders have failed to fulfill over decades despite the reality that the island is coming precariously close to running out of space for municipal garbage.

There had been concern about rushing to fill the seventh council seat before the process of preparing a budget begins in March.

Council Chairman Mel Rapozo had said that working on the budget is hard enough. It would be even more difficult if the seventh council member were to step into the process belatedly.

But with Kagawa’s timely appointment, a full council will start identifying budget objectives and vetting requests from county department heads as soon as next week.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author