LAHAINA - Seeing many changes on Maui during his lifetime and concerned about the future, Ka'ala Buenconsejo feels "it was time I stopped complaining and started participating."
Lahaina resident Buenconsejo, 40, has filed nomination papers to run for the West Maui seat on the County Council. Incumbent Elle Cochran and Frederick Mejia Nava have also pulled papers so far.
Buenconsejo is concerned about job opportunities, affordable homes, adequate health care, safe parks and quality education for his children.
Ka‘ala Buenconsejo is surrounded by his family (from left): wife Doreen, sons Tainoa and Tali, and daughter Teani.
"My wife and I grew up on Maui and have seen many changes. Now, as parents of three young children, it started to weigh on me that the opportunity for all our children to stay home or to even come back home and build a life for themselves is very difficult," he commented.
Running for office will give Buenconsejo an opportunity to highlight West Maui and county issues.
"I want to open the discussion about our future communities. What we want them to look like, and how we can get there. From the cost of living to jobs and access to health care - many of these topics have been on the table for decades, and I hope to be able to add to the discussion and begin to make a change," he said.
Buenconsejo added that working class residents cannot afford any type of housing here on the West Side. "It has become accepted to have two or three generations of families all living under one roof. How can we as a community allow this to be okay?"
Another goal is to bring a sense of pride back to West Maui.
"West Maui is the largest tax contributor to Maui County, and yet we continue to get the least amount of funding to improve our community," he said.
Currently working as the director of marketing for Na Hoaloha Ekolu (Old Lahaina Luau, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle and Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop), Buenconsejo said that today's technology gives citizens a voice in politics and a way to rally people on issues.
"What intrigues me most about politics is how inclusive it has become. With social media, and the demands for transparency, it is amazing to me how the process has come full circle to really be about the people and that their voice can be heard," he said.
"That's not to say personalities don't sometimes take over and override the real purpose for those in office to serve their constituents, but for the most part, politics demands participation. And I don't know that there is any other industry that is so dependent on such a broad base of people."
Councilwoman Cochran's performance isn't a factor in Buenconsejo joining the race.
"My running for office is not about our present councilwoman. I don't know that there is anything she could have done better," Buenconsejo said.
"I am running for my family, community and for the ideals I grew up with. I want to be a part of making things better, and I believe I can be a trusted voice for our West Maui community."
Buenconsejo grew up on Maui and graduated from Baldwin High School in 1991. He earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies at Maui Community College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
He has contributed in many community organizations throughout his career, including the Maui County Jaycees, Hawaii Shriners Hospital for Children, Pacific Marine Life Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Hawaiian Island Land Trust, Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club, Maui Food Bank, Hale Mahaolu, Lahaina Girls Softball and West Maui Youth Basketball League.
He lives in Hawaiian Homes Lahaina at the Villages of Leiali'i with his wife, Doreen, and their three children: Teani (11), Tainoa (8) and Tali (5).
Ka'ala said he has a sincere desire to accomplish change and solve long-standing issues.
"I believe in compromise. I know that is not a unique trait, particularly in public service, but I have a genuine desire to improve and listen. And I accept that I have a lot to learn, but I am willing to put in the work to help promote change," he said.
"Our community has grown so much so that at times it seems that we have our blinders on to any issue and opinion outside of our own. I want to work towards bridging some of the gaps, so we can move forward beyond just continuous meetings. I also feel we have lost what the true intent of serving on the council is for. We are serving the community - we are the voice of the people, not a single organization."
For more information on his campaign, visit www.kaalabuenconsejo.com or look for Ka'ala Buenconsejo on Facebook.