Harry Kim (politician)

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Harry Kim
Harry Kim, Mayor of Hawaii County.jpg
Mayor of Hawaii County
Assumed office
December 5, 2016
Preceded byBilly Kenoi
In office
December 4, 2000 – December 1, 2008
Preceded byStephen Yamashiro
Succeeded byBilly Kenoi
Personal details
Born1939 (age 78–79)
‘Ola‘a, Territory of Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)Bobbie Kim
Children2 sons
ResidenceHilo, Hawaii
Alma materSouthern Oregon State University
ProfessionCivil Defense Director (retired)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Army seal United States Army
Battles/warsVietnam War

Harry Kim (born 1939) is an American politician who is the mayor of Hawaii County. He previously served as mayor from 2000 to 2008. Before that, he was the county's civil defense director.

Early life[edit]

Kim was born to Korean-American immigrants, the youngest of eight children. He was raised in ‘Ola‘a in what was then the Territory of Hawaii (now Keaʻau, Hawaii). They resided in a one-bedroom house with no electricity or running water. He and his siblings would often work for the family business and perform other chores to the point where he was surprised when he learned of a typical weekend.[1]

He attended ʻOla'a School and Hilo High School. He then attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and graduated from Southern Oregon State University. He served in the United States Army as a medic and was a teacher and coach. Kim served for 16 years as County Director of Civil Defense. As Director, Kim would go on the radio and would update the residents of Hawai'i.

First Tenure as Mayor[edit]

Kim announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for mayor in 2000.[2][3] After defeating Democrat turned Republican State Representative Harvey Tajiri in the primary[4] Kim won the general election with 50% of the vote. His opponents, Democratic candidate Fred Holschuh and Green Party candidate Keiko Bonk received 30 and 20 percent, respectively.[5]

In 2004, Kim ran for a second term, easily winning reelection.

While Kim first ran for mayor as a Republican, he considers himself nonpartisan.[3] Until he ran for mayor, his only visible political activity had been backing Democratic mayor Lorraine Inouye.[2] In 2006, prominent Democrats including former Governor Ben Cayetano, then-U.S. Representatives Neil Abercrombie and party chairman Mike McCartney encouraged Kim to run for governor against Linda Lingle. On July 22, 2006, shortly before the filing deadline, he removed his name from consideration.[6][7]

During his first eight years in office, Kim advocated, among other initiatives, recycling projects and the creation of a new County office complex in the place of the defunct Kaikoʻo Mall.[citation needed]

Hawaii Mayoral election, 2012[edit]

In 2012, Kim ran for mayor once more against his successor, Billy Kenoi. Kim lost by 1,438 votes, earning 49% to Kenoi's 51%.[8]

Return to the Mayor's office[edit]

In the wake of Kenoi's alleged misuse of a purchasing card issued by Hawaii County,[9] Kim said on Thursday, March 3, 2016, that he had decided to run again, this time on a campaign to restore trust in government. He was elected mayor in primary voting on August 13, 2016, when he received more than 50% of the votes cast in a field of 13 candidates, thereby avoiding a runoff election in November.[10] In keeping with a commitment he had made in every campaign to accept no more than a $10 donation from any individual, Kim spent a total of $21,931 in 2016, for a per-vote cost of $1.06. His nearest competitor spent $220,289, for a per-vote cost of $22.11.[11]

On June 5, 2018, Hawaii County officials confirmed that a home Kim owned in Vacationland Hawaii was claimed by the lava flow from the 2018 lower Puna eruption of Kīlauea.[12]


  1. ^ "Where I'm From: Harry Kim, Big Island Mayor B.1939". Honolulu Magazine. Bolante, Ronna (interviewer) with Mark Arbeit (photographer). November 1, 2006. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Rod (July 20, 2000). "Kim enters Big Isle race for mayor as Republican". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Bolante, Ronna (October 2003). "Harry Kim, Mayor of Hawaii County". Hawaii Business Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Thompson, Rod (September 5, 2000). "Big Island Mayor: It's clear that voters are ready for a change, and now the question is, whose version of change will it be?". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Thompson, Rod (November 8, 2000). "Kim a disaster for Big Isle opponents". Star Bulletin.
  6. ^ Borreca, Richard (July 22, 2006). "Big Isle mayor will not run: Mayor Harry Kim decides not to challenge Gov. Lingle". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  7. ^ Borreca, Richard (November 14, 2005). "Cayetano urges Kim to run for governor". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  8. ^ Nancy Cook Lauer (March 3, 2016). "Former Mayor Kim to run again". West Hawaii Today. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  9. ^ "Kenoi not guilty on all counts, jury finds". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. 2016-11-01. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  10. ^ "Kim Wins". Big Island Now. August 13, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  11. ^ Lauer, Nancy Cook (September 16, 2016). "Analysis shows it takes more than money to win an election - West Hawaii Today". www.westhawaiitoday.com. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  12. ^ Staff, HNN. "State pledges $12M for lava response as number of homes destroyed rises to 600". Retrieved 2018-07-08.

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