HONOLULU — In his short career as a politician, state Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-14th District, is quickly rising as a leader among leaders. The state House of Representatives announced this week the 34-year-old politician from Kaua‘i has been selected to participate in the National Conference of State Legislatures Symposium for Emerging Leaders, to be held from Sept. 19-21 in North Carolina.
“I am deeply honored to have been selected to attend NCSL’s Emerging Leaders Symposium,” Kawakami said in a press release Thursday. “I believe it is very important for Hawai‘i to meet and learn from great national and international leaders.”
Speaker of the House, Rep. Calvin Say, D-20th District, nominated Kawakami to participate as one of Hawai‘i’s future legislative leaders.
In 2008, Kawakami was first elected to the Kaua‘i County Council, where he introduced several bills dealing with ways to help farmers improve marketability and profit. In 2010, his change of heart proved instrumental on a bill that eventually allowed farm-worker housing on Kaua‘i, as an attempt to promote agriculture.
On his first term as a councilman, he served as the president for the Hawai‘i State Association of Counties.
In November 2010, Kawakami was reelected to the council, as the most voted candidate. But he resigned on April 5, 2011, after being appointed to fill a vacancy in the House’s 14th District (Ha‘ena to Wailua), created when former Rep. Mina Morita accepted a position at the state Public Utilities Commission.
In the 2012 Legislature, on his second term as a state representative, Kawakami was instrumental in pushing forward a bill that will provide continuous funding for a statewide Safe Routes to School program.
He, with his staff’s help, crafted House Bill 2626 and gathered support from 15 additional representatives to co-introduce the bill, including Kaua‘i’s Reps. Jimmy Tokioka, D-15th District, and Dee Morikawa, D-16th District.
This year, Kawakami is running for reelection unopposed.
The symposium is designed to help current and future legislative leaders to hone the skills needed to lead legislatures in the 21st century, according to the NCSL website. The symposium will be anchored by numerous sessions exploring the nature of leadership and by sessions where veteran legislative leaders will share their secrets for being an effective leader, NCSL states.
“Leaders must have the courage and the integrity to take us in the right direction, but they must also possess the right tools,” Kawakami said in the release. “This symposium is an opportunity to gather the tools we need to shape a better future for all of us in Hawai‘i.”
Participants will also take part in a workshop led by former naval officers and a navy SEAL focusing on what it takes to be an extraordinary leader, according to NCSL.
The meeting will be at SAS, a computer data analytics software company in Cary, N.C., just outside of Raleigh.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.