(BIVN) – The above video was published on Wednesday, January 21, one day after Hawaiʻi island learned of the death of Billy Kenoi.
Here an initial transcript from the video. A full transcript will be published soon:
Former Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi died on Tuesday, following a five year battle with cancer.
Friends and top Hawaii officials responded, expressing admiration for the 52 year old island local who at times seemed larger than life.
Kenoi was a waterman, at home in the ocean.
The life long island resident brought a native Hawaiian perspective to office.
At times playful… and always connecting with his island community.
Big island Video News first began documenting the future leader in 2008, when he emerged as the top choice in a field of candidates for Hawaii County Mayor.
Although he had never before held elected office. He earned the public’s vote of confidence for the job.
Kenoi – a lawyer by trade – had come a long way from his early days in Kalapana.
Kenoi had a knack for speaking to the diverse peoples of Hawaii island. Whether it be chatting up a room full of local surfers.
Or a pointed testimony, like this one to the State Commission on Water Resources Management.
Or a talk story with kids, seeking inspiration.
The mayor had a way with words.
He was an unrivalled communicator, a skill he relied on throughout his eight years as mayor.
Like during the early years of his administration, navigating county politics and balancing a budget challenged by an economic downturn.
Along the way he enjoyed the support of a giant in Washington – Senator Daniel K. Inouye.
Inouye called him Billy the Bandit, for somehow securing the highest appropriations from the federal senate committee he chaired.
And the mayor was always willing to ask for more.
In 2012, he narrowly defeated mentor Harry Kim for another four years as Big Island mayor.
His second term would in many ways define his political legacy. Making rough decisions, like signing a controversial county council bill, essentially banning genetically modified organisms from production on the Big Island. The local law was later nullified in court.
Natural disasters challenged his administration on an annual basis.
In 2014 he was challenged by a one two punch of Tropical Storm Iselle, followed by a lava flow that threatened to destroy the village of Pahoa. His words and actions were a reassurance to the people facing an uncertain future, before the town was ultimately spared.
Or in 2015, when dengue fever broke out on the island.
Kenoi always accepted a challenge, whether it was a poke cook-off in Keauhou, or a Hilo triathlon.
The highlight may have been this moment in October of 2014, when the mayor crossed the finish line at the Ironman World Campionship in Kona. Or the emotions felt after a difficult trial, when state prosecutors charged him with criminal misuse of his government-issued purchase card. A jury found him not guilty.
But perhaps his greatest achievements were those celebrated in his final months in office. All across the island, communities came together to witness the completion of projects he began early in his term.
Like the opening a needed bypass road in South Kona.
Kenoi was a champion of the parks and recreation department. He oversaw the renovation of rodeo grounds in Honaunau, and in his home district of Puna, a new regional park complex.
In an unusual move, he volunteered to manage and maintain the State’s Mauna Kea Recreation Area, improving the facilities and adding a playground.
After Kenoi left office, it was revealed he was struggling with a serious illness. The community rallied in support, as the former mayor embarked on his final journey.
He shared the details with radio broadcaster Sherry Bracken in this Island Conversations interview.
In his final months, Kenoi was a deeply spiritual man, leaving us with these words of faith in what would be his final public speech during the December inauguration of the current mayor, Mitch Roth, and a new Hawaii County Council.