Bissen Introduces Mayoral Agenda to Molokai

By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter 

On Jan. 24, Molokai greeted its new mayor Richard Bissen with song, lei and a wide selection of residents and representatives. 

Bissen, a former judge, accompanied Maui County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez to her Molokai townhall meeting at the Mitchell Pauole Center. 

The evening was both an opportunity to “warmly embrace our new mayor” and to outline new mayoral policies and information, explained Rawlins-Fernandez. 

These townhall gatherings, started by Rawlins-Fernandez back in 2019, “make sure that information is being shared and that there is a two-way dialogue” between government officials and the community, she said. 

Bissen used the opportunity to concisely lay out his department and agenda. 

“The number one issue is water,” said Bissen. 

The mayor explained that water usage, especially as it relates to commercial use, is the primary concern for his administration. 

Water use and regulation will “always be the number one issue for our administration,” professed Bissen. 

“The number two issue is housing,” he continued.  

Specifically, Bissen explained that the mayor’s office is looking to introduce programs targeting “kama’aina housing.” 

Assuring residents that he was not using the kama’aina term “loosely,” Bissen explained his desire to prioritize the housing needs of community members. 

 The focus should be “on the person living in the home,” explained Bissen.

For issue number three, Bissen highlighted infrastructure investments. 

Specifically, he is looking to improve broadband access for all. Between health care, education, and job opportunities, the internet has become a “basic need,” he explained. 

The final point on Bissen’s agenda was a county-wide focus on economic resilience. Bissen highlighted that the pandemic illustrated how quickly people can change their lifestyles. He likewise explained that right now the county is facing “not a shortage of work” but rather a “shortage of workers.” 

The mayor’s team for Molokai was also introduced. These included Molokai’s own Shane Dudoit as Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, Kali Arce as Director of Agriculture, Pono Asano as Executive Assistant, as well as Tyler Tanaka as Economic Development Specialist. 

Overall, Bissen explained that he was “impressed” and “very, very pleased” by the attendance and reception at the Mitchell Pauole Center. 

“It means they are interested in their community. It means they are engaged,” said Bissen. 

Molokai residents can look forward to the return of Keani Rawlins-Fernandez’s monthly townhalls, as well as learn more about the mayor’s agenda at mauicounty.gov/1894/Office-of-the-Mayor.  


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