Bissen’s inaugural address calls for sensible spending, embraces traditional knowledge
January 2, 2023, 9:50 PM HST
* Updated January 5, 8:15 AM
Maui’s new Mayor Richard Bissen called for sensible spending, explained his stance as a nonpartisan, and embraced traditional knowledge in his inaugural address on Monday evening at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.
“For several months this past year, I had the privilege of meeting people throughout Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. My family and I, and our extended ʻohana traveled through 11 communities to introduce ourselves and to learn,” said Mayor Bissen.
In his travels, Bissen said he treasured the diversity and uniqueness of communities on Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Maui.
“As I heard the passion of each community, I felt honored that people shared their stories with me–stories of success, struggles, hope. We face challenges and opportunities so important and so complex that it will take a collective willingness and a commitment for all of us to work together through them. It will require compromise, mutual respect and servant leadership, striving to carry forward a positive impact for our future generations,” he said.
During much of his campaign, Mayor Bissen described his desire to extend a seat to everyone at the table. “Often times it may not even be a table–it may be a simple lauhala mat, carried to and rolled out wherever it needs to be. I’m committed to bringing that lauhala mat to our communities, our government partners, our business sector, our nonprofits, our community leaders and their organizations. Together we’ll work hard on the things we can agree on to help our people in any way we can. We will foster an attitude and an environment, working through the difficulties and again those differences together,” said Bissen.
Maui’s new mayor also discussed his views on fiscal responsibility. He pointed toward personal experience, having driven a 1994 Ford Bronco for 26 years. “And yes, I bought that car used like the two cars that I purchased before that. The second thing you should know is I bought my first brand new car when I was 57 years old. I share that with you so you know that’s the same view I hold on how we manage our county finances–sensible and responsible spending to meet the broad needs of our services.”
In his inaugural address, Bissen said that in the political arena, being a nonpartisan individual draws so much interest. “I just have to say… I don’t think that either major party has all the good ideas or has made all the mistakes. My team and I will focus on what’s best for the people of Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi,” he said.
“All too often we become polarized and lose sight of our purpose in government. We cannot lose that focus even when people do not agree with our decisions,” said Mayor Bissen.
Mayor Bissen said he spent the last year discussing critical issues such as housing for Kamaʻāina, adequate water resources to meet the needs for many, and the protection of the environment.
“I also focused on responsible planning, and good governance–all things that will have heightened attention in my administration and done in recognition of the uniqueness of our islands, despite our differences of opinions and life experiences, we can still function in harmony,” said Mayor Bissen. “The strength of one in made better by many.”
“We’re ready to go to work–mindful of the needs and desires of our diverse communities, committed to being good stewards and of service to our people as we strive for improved customer service and better outcomes,” he said.
During his address he said there are significant climate change issues, a tremendous need for food sovereignty, and steps to take to improve how to capture and develop renewable and sustainable energy. He noted that his administration established a new Office of Innovation to ensure that the county is making advances in those critical areas.
He said the generational impact that we want for our children and grandchildren did not start today.
“As we contemplate their future, we know that this is not Day 1. Day 1 existed as far back as when the courageous first voyagers and wayfarers braved the oceans and used innovation and traditional knowledge to reach these shores. Ancient knowledge and practice have always been here. We just haven’t been listening. We can learn so much from our kupuna and those steeped in local knowledge,” said Mayor Bissen.
Bissen said he doesn’t know if he would describe it as a Hawaiian worldview or not, but he said he does know he was raised by his Hawaiian parents who helped to shape his values and beliefs.
“I believe that the group is more important than the individual. I believe that kupuna and keiki eat first at the lūʻau and family events; that we acknowledge and we greet our elders in public or in private out of respect for their status and contribution; and that we show respect to our ʻāina, our resources, and most importantly to each other,” said Mayor Bissen.
“Thank you again for the trust and support you’ve given me. I will work every day to earn that. Mahalo,” he said.