Friends and colleagues remember former mayor Yamashiro - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Friends and colleagues remember former mayor Yamashiro

Stephen Yamashiro Stephen Yamashiro
Russell Kokubun Russell Kokubun

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - People around the state are mourning the loss of former Big Island mayor Stephen Yamashiro. He passed away at Hilo Medical Center Tuesday night of pneumonia at the age of 69.

Yamashiro is being remembered as a no-nonsense leader whose tireless work ethic made Hawaii County a better place.

"He was always somebody that I really respected for his knowledge and his wisdom, so I think for me he was a very dear friend," said Russell Kokubun, who served on the county council with Yamashiro in the 1980's.

Kokubun later lost to Yamashiro in the 1992 mayor's race, but eventually joined Yamashiro's team serving as his executive assistant.

"He could be very aggressive, but he always did his homework. And that's the issue I think I learned from him the best was, if you are going to say something, you better be able to back it up," Kokubun added.

Kokubun and others told Hawaii News Now Yamashiro specialized at balancing the budget, even in difficult economic times.

"We have to live within the amount of income we have," Yamashiro told KGMB in 1999.

"He was able to go ahead and accomplish all he wanted to do without raising taxes and I know he was very proud of that," said Bill Davis, a friend who served as Yamashiro's managing director during both of his terms as mayor from 1992 to 2000.

"I told him he's a better mayor than I'm an attorney because he devoted his time for the county and he would take tough decisions and he would make it," added Frank De Luz, a close friend and former member of the Hawaii County Council. Yamashiro served on the council from 1976 until 1990.

Current Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi issued a statement saying, "… Yamashiro helped steer our island community into the future. His support and advocacy of sectors such as diversified agriculture, forestry and geothermal power are still paying dividends for our residents today."

Yamashiro had heart trouble and had been in declining health for several years.

He is survived by his wife Della.

"I think he'll be missed quite a bit, that friendly smile that he had, his concern for the people of the county. And just a real good guy and the world is not going to be as good without him. That's for sure," Davis said.

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