Stephen K. Yamashiro

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Stephen Yamashiro
Stephen K. Yamashiro.jpg
Mayor of Hawaii County
In office
December 7, 1992 – December 2000
Preceded by Lorraine Inouye
Succeeded by Harry Kim
Personal details
Born Stephen Kim Yamashiro
(1941-07-15)July 15, 1941
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, U.S.
Died May 24, 2011(2011-05-24) (aged 69)
Hilo, Hawaii, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Della E. Allison
Alma mater University of Hawaii
Willamette University
Profession Politician, lawyer

Stephen Kei Yamashiro (July 15, 1941 – May 24, 2011) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the former Mayor of Hawaii County from 1992 to 2000.[1][2] Yamashiro served on the Hawaii County council from 1976 to 1990, including eleven years as the council's chairman.[1] He then served as the Mayor of Hawaii for two consecutive, four-year terms from 1992 until 2000.[1]

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has referred to Yamashiro as "among the most influential political leaders" in the history of the Big Island of Hawaii.[1] More specifically, Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Hugh Clark has called Yamashiro, "probably … the most significant newsmaker on the Big Island" during the final thirty years of the 20th century.[1]


Early years[edit]

Yamashiro was born on July 15, 1941, in Honolulu, Hawaii.[2] He attended University Elementary School and graduated from the Punahou School in 1959.[2] In 1964, Yamashiro also graduated from the U.S. Army Artillery Officer's Candidate School, located at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.[2]

He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 1965 and a law degree from Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon in 1969.[1][2]

Political career[edit]

Yamashiro worked as the Hawaii State Deputy Attorney General.[2] Yamashiro began his career in Hawaii County government as a deputy corporation legal counsel for Hawaii County.[1] He was then employed by the Hawaii Public Employment Relations Board as a Hearings Officer.[2]

Yamashiro was elected to the Hawaii County Council from 1976 to 1990.[2] He served as the chairman of the county council simultaneously for eleven of those years .[2]

Mayor of Hawaii County[edit]

Former Mayor of Hawaii Bernard Akana died in office on April 12, 1990.[1][3] Akana's death necessitated a special election to fill the remainder of Akana's unexpired term.[1] Yamashiro left the council and announced his candidacy for Mayor of Hawaii County.[1] Yamshiro was defeated in the 1990 special election by Lorraine Inouye, who won the election by just 76 votes.[1]

Two years later, Yamashiro was elected Mayor of Hawaii County in 1992 in a rematch against incumbent Mayor Lorraine Inouye.[1] He also defeated Russell Kokubun, who had also served on the county council, in the 1992 mayoral election.[1] Though rivals in the election, Kokuban became deputy planning director for several years during Yamashiro's tenure as mayor.[1]

He was inaugurated into office on December 7, 1992.[2] Yamashiro was re-elected to a second, four-year term in 1996, defeating challenger Keiko Bonk of the Green Party by a slimmer than expected margin of 3,148 votes.[4]

Yamashiro came into office facing major economic challenges for the Big Island of Hawaii. The island's once thriving sugar industry had declined, causing the loss of agricultural jobs.[1] The last major sugarcane plantation closed on the island closed during the 1990s.[1] Yamashiro, a strong proponent of development, pushed for the rapid development of resorts and other tourism infrastructure in South Kohala and North Kona to replace jobs lost in the sugar industry.[1]

Yamshiro is credited with introducing the 100% Kona coffee emblem and logo now widely used by Kona Coffee producers on the Big Island.[2] He expanded the tourism industry between Japan and the Big Island of Hawaii.[2] Yamashiro spearheaded efforts to recruit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to open an office and international service at Kona International Airport.[2] He also successfully lobbied for nonstop, international flights between Kona and Narita International Airport by Japan Airlines.[2]

He also considered an advocate for the Big Island of Hawaii's agricultural industry, the University of Hawaii and the island's film industry.[2]

In 2000, Yamashiro could not seek re-election due to term limits.[5] He was succeeded by Harry Kim in December 2000.[5] Yamashiro left Hawaii County with a budget surplus.[2]

Post-Mayoral career[edit]

Republican Governor Linda Lingle appointed Yamashiro to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.[1] Lingle later reappointed Yamashiro to a second, four-year term on the tourism authority.[1] He served as the chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority's budget committee.Additionally, the Western United Life Assurance Company hired him as project manager to promote its planned residential development in Hilo.[6]

Yamashiro died from pneumonia at Hilo Medical Center in Hilo, Hawaii, on May 24, 2011 aged 69.[7] He was survived by his wife, Della E. Allison.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Pang, Gordon Y.K. (2011-05-26). "Leader reshaped Big Island as council member, mayor". Honolulu Star Advertiser. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Former Mayor Stephen K. Yamashiro (1941-2011)". Hawaii 24/7. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 
  3. ^ "Other Hawai'i mayors who died in office". Honolulu Advertiser. 2008-06-23. Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  4. ^ Rohter, Ira (2011-05-26). "Fruits of Resistance: Hawaiÿi Islanders Stop Oji Paper Ltd." (PDF). Ira Rohter. University of Hawaii. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  5. ^ a b "The Races to Watch: Neighbor Islands". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 2000-09-25. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  6. ^ Dayton, Kevin (2004-05-17). "172-acre project proposed for Hilo". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  7. ^ Former Hawaii County Mayor Stephen Yamashiro dead at 69 of pneumonia