Lahaina resident Ka'ala Buenconsejo, 41, sees this year's race for the West Maui County Council seat as "a time to get involved. It's my turn to do something."
The first-time candidate thinks "GMOs are an important issue, but the deeper issues," in his view, "are jobs, housing and infrastructure."
"These are the major concerns of West Maui," Buenconsejo said. "People are leaving and not coming back. It's harder than ever for seniors to live here. West Maui has become a place where it's almost impossible for a middle class or working class family to buy a home. You can't find a home for less than $500,000. If I didn't have Hawaiian Homes, I wouldn't have a home myself. It's plain and simple: We need to change that."
Ka‘ala Buenconsejo – Challenger
Buenconsejo is a 1991 Baldwin High School graduate and received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in 1999. He has worked for many years in media and public relations (PR). His career has taken him to other parts of the state. He also has a background in banking and mortgage lending. The candidate holds an active Realtor's license with Elite Properties.
He and his family returned to Maui in 2007, when his wife, Doreen, received a lease in Hawaiian Homes Lahaina at the Villages of Leiali'i. The couple has three children. They have lived in West Maui for seven years. Buenconsejo said he feels he is already quite well known in several parts of the island, including Pukalani, where he grew up, and Wailuku, where he went to school.
Currently, Buenconsejo is director of marketing for Na Hoaloha Ekolu, the parent company of the Old Lahaina Lu'au, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle and Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop-all on the West Side.
If elected, he plans to give up his present job and serve as a full-time council member. He expressed his thanks to Michael Moore, Tim Moore and Robert Aguiar, the company's three owners, for giving him the opportunity "to explore a different opportunity." He said they support his candidacy and have helped him by sponsoring a fundraiser and paying his salary while he runs.
On the campaign trail, the candidate appears comfortable and at ease shaking hands and meeting voters.
"Really, it is my first time," he said, "but I think what helps is the PR and marketing background. I'm a people person. Where I do struggle is the fundraising. In my local culture, it's hard to ask people for money and help."
He did not want to estimate what he has raised or spent so far, saying that he will file those figures on July 1 with the Campaign Spending Commission.
His campaign kickoff at Lahaina Civic Center on Tuesday, June 3, was well attended.
"We had a great turnout for West Maui-over 200-and it was diverse group, including seniors and new Maui residents."
A recent sign-waving event drew more than 60 volunteers.
As for the other candidates, he said, "I know Rick [Nava] pretty well. Elle [Cochran] I just met." He declined to comment on their campaigns or views.
Personally, he said, "I have a vested interest in what the future holds for our children and families. We need to be sure our children always have a place to call home and to keep our Hawaiian culture alive."