I had a call from a friend on Oahu who broke the news last night that Kauai’s Mayor, Bryan Baptiste, passed away yesterday afternoon. He apparently had a heart attack.
Accordng to KITV News, Baptiste, 52, had quadruple bypass heart surgery June 13 at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, was discharged from the hospital on Friday and returned to Kauai Saturday night.
Now Administrative Assistant Gary Heu, who has managed to keep a very low profile during the six years he served under Baptiste, is serving as mayor pro tem.
He [Heu] contacted Kauai's elected officials and plans to meet with county officials Monday to determine what happens next. Officials must determine the next steps according to the county charter.
What happens next, under the County Charter, is that the Council will select one of its own members to serve as mayor, with a new mayor to be chosen in the November election. The newly elected mayor will serve out only the remainder of Baptiste’s term, or another two years, at which point he or she will ostensibly be in a great position to run again.
Meanwhile, the Council gets to choose a person to fill the empty Council seat. Hmmm. I wonder who that might be? Hopefully they won't be so blatant as to bring on someone from Grove Farm, although that company certainly has had Council representation in the past. Or will they open the door to Derek Kawakami, who is already running for the Council and has the proper pedigree?
It ought to be interesting to see how the various Council members — Ron, JoAnn and Jay — who have already been eying the mayor’s seat conduct themselves in the scramble for power that this event opens up, especially since it’s happening in an election year.
One has to wonder, too, if Kaipo, who has more years than anyone on the Council, will decide he deserves the top post. Will Shaylene ditch her prosecutor’s bid and grab for the big chair? Will Mel decide he wants a piece of the action?
Yes, it ought to be quite a show. After all, opportunities like this don’t come around every day for a politician on Kauai.