NEW ORLEANS – Maui County Councilmember Riki Hokama was sworn in as president of the National Association of Counties, an organization representing 3,069 counties across the United States, at its annual conference here, Council Chair Gladys Baisa announced today.
“This is a historic moment – a first time for Maui County,” Baisa said. “We are very proud that one of our own holds a prestigious leadership position on a national level.”
In his first speech as NACo president, Hokama shared his initiative to strengthen counties’ transportation and infrastructure. “Counties are responsible for building and maintaining 45 percent of public roads and nearly 40 percent of bridges that connect residents, communities and businesses,” he said.
“The decisions that county leaders make every day about transportation, infrastructure, land use and economic development policies influence local and national economic opportunities,” Hokama said. “As leaders, our decisions shape how communities grow and change to contribute to Americans’ quality of life.” Hokama said NACo will convene its stakeholders to produce a campaign on the Transportation and Infrastructure Initiative, which will include reports, webinars, podcasts, symposiums and workshops to generate awareness about the counties’ role.
In his speech, Hokama remembered his late father, former Maui County Councilmember Goro Hokama. “He served the county for 40 years and was an active member of NACo,” Hokama said. “It was because of his influence that I left a corporate life to enter public service.” Hokama’s mother, Kiwae Hokama and other family members attended today’s installation ceremony.
Members of the Maui County Council and delegates from other Hawaii counties presented Hokama with lei during his installation. Baisa said the delegates started singing “Hawaii Aloha” while a group photo was being taken. “It felt right to honor our colleague and express our heart’s joy by song,” she said. The 2014 NACo Annual Conference, attended by more than 2700 county officials, provided government leaders an opportunity to learn about federal legislation and regulation, other issues impacting counties and innovative programs.
Hokama holds the council residency seat for Lanai and has served as council member for more than 13 years. Hokama has been active in NACo since 2001 and served in its various committees prior to reaching the top position.