Serving Communities

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Keola Lindsey: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

Much has been written about the phenomenon of time and I totally agree with the conclusion that it sure does “fly.”

It seems that in a blink of an eye we went from election 2020 to starting and finishing the state legislative session. OHA has rolled out a new strategic plan, a staff reorganization to implement that new plan, and approved a biennial budget.

As a new Trustee, it has been a lot to take in and I am blessed to have the support of my office staff, Kama Hopkins and Kaui Wailehua, along with those working out of the Hilo and Kona OHA offices. We are here to serve by listening more than talking and doing everything possible to help.

Saying our people are doing great things for their communities, their islands and Hawaiʻi as a whole is certainly an understatement. Right here on Moku o Keawe, from Kumukahi to Kīholo, Pololū to Miloliʻi, and all points in between, folks see what must be done and get right to work to make a difference. Most do it out of aloha and their only paycheck is the satisfaction of knowing they are following in the path of their kūpuna and fulfilling the responsibility to set an example for the next generation. This is happening on all our islands, and it is awesome.

When a wildfire recently threatened communities on Hawaiʻi Island we saw the proof of how our people come together when it is needed the most.

Our first responders were there, just like they always are. The largest wildfire in our island’s history stretched resources in every direction to contain the more than 40,000-acre monster blaze. More help was needed, and it came from all directions. Some drove heavy machinery and others shuttled water tanks out to the frontlines. Shelters were opened and manned around the clock. Unfortunately, property was lost, and lives have been impacted, and I extend good thoughts and my prayers to all for a full recovery. Without our community heroes, it is scary to think it could have been worse.

Whether it is everyday work, or responding to a disaster, how does, or how can, OHA help?

We make grants and conduct research that we use to advocate with government organizations and private entities to try and push through the roadblocks and red tape. For example, emergency funding was just approved by the Board of Trustees to assist the wildfire recovery effort.

However, one thing I am learning to do when given the opportunity after an excellent community presentation is to ask that question: “How can OHA help?”

Sometimes the answers are many and sometimes the answer is, “Stay out of the way.” While that second answer might bruise the organizational ego a bit, honesty and reality are important.

Perhaps four decades ago there was an expectation that OHA would lead every community in facing their challenges. If so, that has changed. Communities know their issues the best and are on the frontlines every day. They are leading and when they need partners, sometimes a few, sometimes many, OHA needs to be there, ready to listen and do everything possible to help.

Ā hui hou.