A New Generation of Kawakamis is Leading the Garden Island

Richard Borreca
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

The Kawakamis are Kaua‘i’s first family of politics. The political and retail power of the Garden Island courses through the Kawakami name. Three members of the clan — Richard, Bertha and Derek — have served in the state House of Representatives.

Richard was the first. After serving the Garden Island in the House for two decades, Richard was elected Speaker of the House at the start of the 1987 legislative session, only to die of a massive heart attack two months later. His widow Bertha succeeded him in the House and was vice chair of the Finance Committee for 14 years. And now nephew Derek, also a Democrat, who served on the Kaua‘i County Council (2008-2011, 2016) and in the state House (2011-2015), is completing the first year of his inaugural term as mayor of Kaua‘i County, which also includes the privately owned island of Ni‘ihau.

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