A look back on Mayor Bryan Baptiste's political career

Mayor Bryan Baptiste
Mayor Bryan Baptiste
Seven people were killed in the 2006 Ka Loko dam break
Seven people were killed in the 2006 Ka Loko dam break

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

LIHUE, KAUAI (KHNL) -- Mayor Bryan Baptiste's political career spans more than a decade. His life of public service as Kauai's top leader started in November 2002. After six years on the Kauai County Council, Baptiste defeated Ron Ko'uchi and won the mayoral race, then got re-elected in 2006.

Six months later, tragedy struck. The Ka Loko Dam broke. Water crashed down like a tidal wave, washing away trees and homes. Mayor baptiste stood strong through it all.

"This is not the first disaster we've been through and we have a strong team of individuals in there and they're on top of it," he said.

Lives were lost that day, and Baptiste led the aggressive search for the missing.

"Teams are still out there weather is bad. Makes it difficult for dogs to work with heavy rains," he said.

In September of 2007, Baptiste confronted what's arguably one of the most challenging times in his career as Mayor.

"You yell out, you don't let people speak," he told Superferry protesters, as tension erupted during a meeting between the Governor and Kauai's community.

"Are you scared for the people of Kauai on Wednesday? People are going to protest, Mayor," asked one protester.

"I do not have anything to legally say that the Superferry cannot come to Kauai," said Baptiste.

Even in the face of political pressure, Mayor Baptiste spoke the truth. Friends say he wasn't so much a politician, as he was a man dedicated and honored to serve his home.

For now, Baptiste's assistant will fill his role until current Council members select a temporary mayor. Later this year, there will be a general election to fill Baptiste's vacancy. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.