Honest, industrious and caring: these three words perfectly describe Hawai‘i County Council Member Susan “Sue” Lokelani Keohokapu Lee Loy, for these are the values that have shaped her life.
Sue’s father, the late David Keohokapu, was a longshoreman, and her mother, Patricia, was a longtime Hilo Hospital nurse and is now an avid volunteer. Patricia donates her homemade quilts to the elderly residents at the Life Care Center of Hilo. “My parents are the bedrock of why I’m so committed to serving others in the community,” Lee Loy said.
Sue was born on O‘ahu but the family moved to Hawai‘i Island in 1974 so her parents could provide the children an opportunity to embrace a rural lifestyle where her father taught her everything about the ocean. “Swimming, fishing, surfing and exploring the shoreline with my Dad are the best memories of my childhood. Without me realizing it, my life was filled with many lessons of being cognizant of our ocean and its intrinsic relationship to a healthy family,” Lee Loy said.
Raised in Hilo, Sue attended Waiākea Elementary, Waiākea Intermediate, and Waiākea High School, Hawai‘i Community College, and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. It was during a college internship that Sue was introduced to the world of politics. “I had the privilege to work for County Council Chairs Kalani Schutte, Russell Kokubun and Elroy Osorio drafting legislation and County budgets. It was a steep learning curve for me; however, I was lucky to work alongside some very smart native Hawaiians such as Lehua Kalima, Alapaki Nahale-a and Amy Kalili. I feel so lucky and blessed to call these Hawaiians my friends,” Lee Loy said.
Sandwiched between Lee Loy’s college years and elected office is a 20-year professional career that includes work as a successful strategic planner and well-versed legal assistant with a deep and rich understand of land use rules, regulations and policies. Sue also had the pleasure of serving on the Hawaii County Water Board.
“Like growing up with my father’s lessons of the ocean and its connection to family, my professional career gave me a profound insight that families are a product of healthy communities which are guided by land use laws,” Lee Loy said.
In 2016 Sue was elected to her first term on the Hawai‘i County Council, representing District 3, which includes Keaukaha, Pana‘ewa, Waiākea and Kea‘au. This area is the heart of Hilo with all the amenities of a thriving community. Council District 3 includes two Hawaiian Home Land communities, the harbor, an airport, a landfill, the Hawai‘i Community College, and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. It also includes major residential, commercial, industrial and farm lands, approximately 11 county beach parks, and the county zoo. “I’m the only Councilmember with two tigers and that is unique,” Lee Loy said.
With just 19 months as a council member under her belt the most significant contribution with which Sue has assisted on the behalf of the Hawaiian community is the relocation of the East Hawai‘i Organics Facility. The facility was planned approximately 1,000 feet from the homestead community of Pana‘ewa. “Maile Luuwai and the Pana‘ewa community were amazing. I just coached from the sidelines, helped with the understanding of the land use rules and the political process and the community took it from there. They engaged with thoughtful, meaningful and compelling testimony that resonated with each Council member and the Mayor. That type of successful civic engagement and self-determination make me hopeful for the future of native Hawaiians.”
Sue lives in Pana‘ewa with her husband, Ian, a detective with the Hawai‘i County Police Department, and their children. “I really married up and into a bigger and deeper understand of native Hawaiian needs and issues. Ian and the entire Lee Loy family are cornerstones to native Hawaiian issues; when you marry the youngest of 12 children, your knowledge base of native Hawaiian and community needs expand exponentially.”