Robert “Bob” Lindsey Jr. sees his candidacy for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Hawaii Island trustee as having a unique characteristic: a strong community service record. That service is something the 64-year-old Waimea resident said he has provided and will continue to provide if given the privilege to serve again.
The five-year incumbent said he’s been called “The People’s Trustee” because of his accessibility, commitment and lifetime contributions to the Hawaiian community. He was appointed by unanimous vote by the board to fill a vacancy with the passing of Trustee Linda Dela Cruz in March 2007. He was “honored” when The Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Mamalahoa, recently presented him the Mamalahoa Award, recognizing those that preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture, advocate for Hawaiian rights and benefits, as well as uplift the Hawaiian nation.
Lindsey said his contributions to the Hawaiian community began in 1970 when he served as a social worker in 3rd Circuit Family Court for seven years. He also was a ranger at Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site. He then served for 24 years in various roles, including the President Office’s agency liaison, government relations officer and the land assets division director for Kamehameha Schools.
Lindsey said he’s a strong advocate for collaboration, especially because OHA, which has an operating budget of nearly $42 million from all funding sources, is “not financially strong.” He clarified most of OHA’s funding, about $34 million, is from ceded lands revenue and about $2.44 million is from the state’s general fund. Lindsey plans to use his experience, expertise, skill set and positive spirit to “help cultivate and build more coordinated and productive partnerships” between OHA, government, beneficiaries, community groups and the public.
Education, housing and health are his top priorities. He said OHA has substantially provided support to Kamehameha Schools and 17 Hawaiian-focused public charter schools, of which there are four on the Big Island, in the past few years. The charter school movement got a boost from OHA with a $1.5 million grant, which helped supplement the schools’ budgets and cover various costs associated with teaching and transporting students. Lindsey wants to keep the momentum going by supporting wider efforts to improve public education within the Native Hawaiian community and opportunities that better prepare beneficiaries for jobs.
Lindsey also plans to support, emphasize and advance partnerships that improve the quality of life for Hawaiians by offering home ownership opportunities. A successful partnership is the Build the Foundation project between OHA and Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii at the Villages at Lai Opua in North Kona, where 14 homes will be built, he said.
“There’s a waiting list of more than 40,000 people seeking a homestead or agricultural lot. Also, there are more than 2,000 Native Hawaiians using shelter services. Homelessness can be attributed to many factors, but the greatest factor is the lack of affordable housing options,” Lindsey said. “We should try our very best to help everyone who wants to achieve the American dream. In the end, they will have a stable living environment and an asset to pass to their children and their families.”
Lindsey wants to be a champion for health by helping Hawaiians overcome alarming trends relating to obesity, diabetes and heart problems, as well as assisting them in maintaining healthy lives and having access to the best medical and dental care. Lindsey said he plans to further support the state’s Hawaiian health organization, Papa Ola Lokahi, which annually receives earmarks of $14 million thanks to Sen. Daniel Inouye. He also wants to get more resources for Hawaii Island’s Hawaiian health organization, Hui Malama. Lastly, he thinks OHA should be active in discussions about issues pertaining to health care systems, such as doctor shortages and maternal care.