• Editor’s note: The Garden Island sat down with all 14 candidates running for seats on the Kaua‘i County Council. Profiles will run in no particular order throughout the month of October leading up to the election.
KAPA‘A — Every few days, former mayor and Kauai County Council candidate Bernard Carvalho Jr. makes a left out of his driveway in Kapa‘a and powerwalks down Mailihuna Road. He heads down the Ke Ala Hele Makalae multiuse path, up Kawaihau Road, up to Kapa‘a High School and back to his house. It takes him about 38 minutes.
He’s had about a year and a half off from government, and in that time has indulged in spending time with his grandchildren.
“I got to really connect with them, to be Papa and enjoy that time,” he said.
Carvalho started his government career in Parks and Recreation Department, then to the Agency on Elderly Affairs and eventually, became the director of Parks and Recreation. In 2008, he stepped into the role of mayor with the support of the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste who died in office. That led to a decade-long stint as mayor, which wrapped in 2018. Carvalho ran for lieutenant governor after that, but placed in third in the Democratic primary that year.
The decision to run for a seat on the council came earlier this year with his family in mind.
“I thought that at this council level, I could still run and take care of my dad,” Carvalho said. “I still want to give back. I have a lot of knowledge, experience, understanding, connections.”
His father, Bernard P. Carvalho Sr., died in May of this year. He still calls him in the morning sometimes.
“I was his caregiver,” he said. “I gave up some chances to do good stuff in different areas, but I know that was the best decision.”
Walking the path, Carvalho can barely get a few sentences in before somebody calls out to him, waving from their car, some thanking him for his service, catching up.
“I remember faces,” he admitted with a laugh.
Kapa‘a is his stomping ground, and transforming the old Cane Haul Road into the walking, biking path meant a lot to him.
This was his workout path when he was kid, and his dad would drive by honking at him as he ran, which Carvalho did to his kids later on, and he plans to do to his grandchildren eventually.
The path, now marred with the creeping sea level rise, coastal erosion, he said, needs to be addressed.
“Whether we left it as a road or a path, we’d still have to deal with (the effects of climate change),” he said. “One day, all the water will be up here, there’s no beach.”
On the Kealia side of the path, he stops in front of a field, where the former plantation-style housing he used to live sat.
“I can see it right now,” he said. “I’m getting chicken skin.”
On the topic of housing, likes developing town cores, incentivizing mixed-use buildings and making the island more walkable.
“We have to really step to the plate as leaders to prepare for the future, sustainability, green, taking care of our ‘aina, and making the right decisions,” he said.
He’d like the county and residents to partner together to clean up the rivers and streams, reducing the chances of flooding, he said.
“I’m the realist,” he said. “It’s good to have great ideas, but the bottom line is: where’s the funding? What’s the timing? What are the resources? Grant opportunities are always out there, it’s just hard to get the right people’s input.”
Carvalho touts his history of community meetings, bringing along his department heads to the people.
“To me, it’s important to offer the opportunity to talk story,” he said.
Carvalho’s list of accomplishments as mayor is impressive but it’s what wasn’t completed that has him bothered. The Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center, an on-island facility to provide mental-health and substance-abuse-related support services to adolescents and their families, is top of his mind.
“It was to heal the challenged youth and to not have them shipped away,” he said. “Not only healing, but while they’re there plant taro and papaya.”
The center was a decade-long project for Carvalho who spent years on the hunt for funding. Earlier this year, the county repurposed the facility to relocate prosecuting office services into the space. Those plans are on hold during the pandemic as it is now being used as a quarantine center by the state’s Department of Health.
He’s still contemplating the landfill, too. In late 2018, Carvalho’s administration made strides toward opening a new municipal solid waste landfill on about 270 acres at a site on Ma‘alo Road, and a 2.8-mile off-site access road and utility infrastructure to support the development, which was part of his Holoholo 2020 list of projects for Kaua‘i.
“We had everything set,” he said. “But, they moved everything back to Kekaha where the existing landfill was. The community was against that; we had meetings.”
Years of government service under his belt, Carvalho broke down local government into football terms.
The mayor, obviously, is the quarterback, who comes along with a whole offensive line of department heads. The council, he said, watches the game, taking notes of the plays, offering suggestions to the administration.
“I’m not the mayor anymore,” he said. “I have to work amongst my six other council members, I know not everybody’s going to agree, but I’m ready for that.”
Source: The Garden Island