Mauna Kea Trask will be the new Kauai County Attorney if the County Council agrees on Dec. 1.
County Attorney Al Castillo, who has held the post for the past six years, will be returning to his private criminal defense and family law practice.
Though Mauna Kea is young — he graduated UH Richardson Law School in 2004 — he's earned some solid stripes via baptism by fire and innovation, along with plain hard work.
The innovation, which also reflects his Native Hawaiian heritage, includes creating stewardship agreements with kanaka and community organizations and using ho’oponopono to complete the county's Section 106 obligations (a federal consultation process to identify historic and culturally significant sites) for Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the coastal path.
The baptism by fire involves the wrath he incurred for his controversial opinion that Bill 2491, the GMO/pesticide regulatory measure, was legally flawed. His opinion was vindicated when a federal judge overturned the law on the grounds that it was pre-empted by the state's authority.
And as I reported previously, he's used his volunteer position on the Kauai-Niihau Burial Council to identify and record known burial sites so as to avoid inadvertent discoveries of iwi kupuna during construction. It was a proactive and creative approach to protecting burials and minimizing the emotional distress that so often accompany such disturbances.
Though I took a few cracks at Mauna Kea in his early years with the county, I've developed a lot of respect for him over the years. He's a dedicated public servant, and a man of integrity and high intelligence, so he should be able to learn whatever he needs to succeed at the position. I've also found him to be a deep and thoughtful guy who cares about Kauai — his ancestral home — and looks at the big picture. He has a sound grasp of the intertwined complexities of politics, society and culture.
He'll be a good replacement for Al, who has earned the enmity of some powerful Councilmembers, most notably top vote-getter Mel Rapozo. The County Attorney must represent both the Administration and the Council, so it's good those Al and Mel won't be banging heads anymore. Mauna Kea's smooth diplomacy should help the mayor and the new Council get off on the right foot.