LAHAINA - It's been a whirlwind campaign for Frederick "Rick" Nava, who is going door-to-door throughout Maui County to meet people and educate himself on the issues.
Nava is running against incumbent Elle Cochran and Ka'ala Buenconsejo for the West Maui seat on the County Council. Two will advance through the Aug. 9 primary in the nonpartisan, county-wide council election process.
The former Lahaina Rotary Club president has been learning about 2014's hot issues - including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), West Maui injection wells and affordable housing - and asking a lot of questions.
Nava said a proposal to ban the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) seed crops, experimental GE test crops and extensive pesticide use - including the testing of experimental pesticides and their combinations - has spurred very emotional, passionate debate among residents.
The SHAKA Movement submitted a supplemental petition on May 27 that seeks enactment of a GMO moratorium ordinance.
If the County Council does not adopt the ordinance within 60 days, it will be placed on the 2014 general election ballot for consideration by the electorate.
Nava said voters need to know what's at stake. In talking to residents, he believes many people are confused about GMOs, pesticides and labeling.
He supports agriculture and wonders why Hawaii can't grow its own fruit and vegetables, instead of importing them.
Nava thinks the county should support farmers and farmers' markets. He would like to see a Second Friday Town Party type of event in Lahaina devoted to agriculture with Lahainaluna High School students selling produce, farmers' booths, food and music.
Housing is another big issue this year, highlighted in the recent council debate about whether to approve the 203-unit Kahoma Village project along Front Street in Lahaina or keep the land open for a park.
He said "there's not much housing in Lahaina," but even "affordable" housing is priced out of reach for most residents.
According to Nava, many residents would have to work two jobs to be able to afford a home in the lower end of Maui's price range.
As someone new to running for office, he approaches topics like students at their first day of school. When hit with a potential roadblock, he said it's good to ask "why not?"
He is frustrated by West Maui's lack of recycling centers. He feels the county is essentially telling upper West Side residents that "it's not worth recycling," since they have to use up time and gas driving south.
"It doesn't add up for the citizens," he commented.
Rotarians are known for linking members, businesses and organizations to pool volunteers and resources to tackle projects.
Seeing residents of all ages standing at blazing hot, open bus stops, Nava would like to see the county partner with resorts or businesses to establish comfortable bus stops, which would increase bus use and lessen traffic.
Walking Front Street in the early morning hours, Nava questioned, "What can we do to clean it?" He thought about giving businesses access to a power washer, which they could use and then pass down the line.
"These are common sense solutions to problems," Nava said.
With the county-wide system for electing council members, Nava said incumbents have a big advantage in name recognition.
As a volunteer with community and sports organizations over the years, graduate of Lahainaluna High School and president/owner of Media Systems Inc., a Lahaina-based photography and video production company, Nava feels that he is well-known in Lahaina.
Some Mauians knew of Nava from his frequent letters to The Maui News about pit bulls (blame the owner, not the breed), emphasizing good news on the front page and mail carriers not leaving their trucks if a car is blocking the mailbox.
He has been to Lanai three times, visited Molokai and will go to Hana this week.
"It's important to know their concerns," he commented.
Nava plans to go to Central Maui, Upcountry and Kihei/Wailea to meet people and learn about them.
He's finding that some residents don't vote, or they don't understand the races and offices up for election. It's important to educate residents and encourage them to vote, he added.
A veteran of many Rotary campaigns, including a drive to bring wheelchairs to needy people in the Philippines, his motto is to be nice to everyone, because someday, you may need their help.
He asks strangers their last name, often finding a friend or family member in common. In fact, Nava has made connections around the world by taking the time to learn about people.
Arguing that he's not a politician, Nava is running a grassroots campaign with "not a lot of money." He hopes that as he meets and talks to people, they will carry his message to others.
When he announced his candidacy, Nava said, "My priorities are responsible growth, affordable housing and improved transportation for the people of Maui County. We must ensure that our keiki have a secure and vibrant future right here at home. Wherever they choose to live, be it Maui, Lanai or Molokai, they should have the opportunity to enjoy secure jobs and a quality of life second to none."
Prior to running his own company, Nava held finance-related positions at major Maui resorts.
A retired veteran, he served for almost 30 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve as a rear detachment officer, combat engineer and finance specialist.
Nava's community service includes a five-year stint with the Police Commission, leadership positions with the Rotary Club of Lahaina, board membership with various Lahaina and West Maui business groups, including the Maui Chamber of Commerce, and involvement with several Filipino community organizations.
He and his wife, Severina, have two children, Aaron and Tiffany, and a grandson, Koby Lee.
Rick has wanted to run for public office for several years. With Tiffany here and helping at Media Systems, he decided to jump in this year.
For more information on his campaign, call Friends of Rick Nava at (808) 298-3953, visit www.RickNava.com or check out his Facebook page.