EWA BEACH, Hawaii, June 21, 2016 — The bloodletting of this year’s presidential death-match has all but exhausted voters seeking a leader to rally behind. But races across the country offer superior choices and greater opportunities for immediate change, and they are widely unnoticed.
Like mom-and-pop restaurants that can serve a just-right peach cobbler or canned dreck, local campaigns are a hit-or-miss experience. But there are those uncommon candidates who deliver precisely the hometown recipe for reform that voters desperately desire.
In Hawaii, one such man is Ewa’s Bryan Jeremiah.
The Native Hawaiian candidate is running for House District 41. The first impression he makes is of a tall and resolute man, with broad shoulders grown from decades of building things with his bare hands as a member of the local carpenters’ union.
Whether working crowds or speaking at community events, he talks with a gentle, mild-mannered tone, frequently invoking themes of family, tradition and integrity. His campaign manager, a veteran Navy submariner with a keen eye for detail, is always close by.
Jeremiah has a magnetic personality that draws strangers to share stories with him, and he pauses often to squeeze their hands and nod approvingly in a way that conveys not only understanding, but the unspoken chemistry of meeting a new best friend.
Jeremiah has a country style transplanted into the concrete jungle of Oahu. That makes for a softer, more personable candidate than most. As a born-again Christian, he has a profound testimony of transformation and humility that he isn’t ashamed to share. Running on a platform of rebuilding local infrastructure, creating jobs and protecting local values, Jeremiah told CDN that “sitting and doing nothing was not an option” for him in this election.
Dr. Danny de Gracia: Bryan, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Bryan Jeremiah: I am a Native Hawaiian born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii on homestead land in Keaukaha, which is in Hilo. My father, Earl Kamaka “Buster” Jeremiah, was of pure Hawaiian descent, also from Hilo, and my mother Virginia is German, Irish, Dutch from Lansing, Michigan. So I am what you would call Hapa. I am the middle child of nine, five brothers, and three sisters. All but three live here.
I attended Kamehameha Schools, graduated from Hilo High. Attended college at UH Hilo, and then ITT Technical Institute for Computer Aided Drafting.
I work in the construction industry as a project manager/project superintendent, and I have been in the industry for 30 years. I’ve just completed a phase of work at the new International Marketplace, which is a $100 million+ project, and currently am running a tenant improvement project for Maui Brewing Company at the Beachcomber Hotel in Waikiki.
As a resident of Ewa Beach for over 12 years, I’m active in the community, volunteering my time, talents and treasures to help make others’ lives better, supporting the Ewa Beach Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. I am a member of the Ewa Beach Lions club as well as a chair of zoning and planning with the Ewa Neighborhood board. I am also a pastor and an honorary member of the United Servicemen’s Organization (USO), having donated time and abilities towards a $250,000 full volunteer renovation.
My wife Stefani is a graduate of Kailua High School. She attended UH Manoa and has a BA in early education and is also a licensed practical nurse. Stefani and I have been married for over 20 years and have four children—three sons, Shane, and twins Seth and Noah—and daughter Christina; as well as four granddaughters, Brooke, Leeah, Mailee and Braylee.
DDG: What motivated you to get involved in electoral politics?
Jeremiah: We have some real problems facing our community and state that need immediate correction, or we will be the first generation to leave our posterity in a worse condition than our parents left us. So as a father of four, grandfather of four, and man of God, sitting and doing nothing was not an option.
“Last minute, closed door, 12th hour, under-the-radar type legislation that has no real merit except to benefit a special interest group, is unacceptable.”
DDG: Is there a particular person in politics or American history that you see as a role model?
Jeremiah: Ronald Reagan. He oversaw the largest peacetime increase in defense spending, which led to the crumbling of Russia as a threat to the U.S. and catapulting us into the world leader of freedom. To this day I remember his famous quote, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
He orchestrated the largest single tax cut in American history, that revived the American economy, and led to at least two decades of prosperity. Reagan stood for a core set of conservative ideals, and when trouble came, he applied these ideals with courage, kindness and persistence to achieve a favorable outcome.
DDG: Many elected and public officials have hobbies like weight-lifting, horseback-riding; some are musicians or voracious bookworms. What do you like to do when you want to relax and get perspective on life?
Jeremiah: I spend time reading the Bible to find perspective and center. I look for instruction from God because I am certain without His guidance I would fail. I love to surf and enjoy outings to the beach with my family. I enjoy building things and helping those who are not able to help themselves. I also enjoy working out when I can find the time.
DDG: Do you have a favorite food?
Jeremiah: I have a lot of favorite foods but one I can eat every day without fail is hamburger. I was raised in a very simple home on simple meals, and my mom had to stretch the food to make enough for everyone to eat. I loved when she would make hamburger and vegetables, hamburger and cabbage, hamburger and brown gravy, just about anything burger dish is good for me.
DDG: The area you’re running in has some complicated demographics. It’s almost like running a smaller version of a statewide race there, with retired Filipino and Japanese plantation workers, adult residential care homes, active duty military assigned to Hawaii, white-collar workforce commuters, and retirees who are living there for the golf courses in Ewa. What’s it like campaigning in a district with constituencies that diverse? Is there a single issue voters there all agree on? What are some of the things that voters disagree on in your district?
Jeremiah: They disagree on whose fault it is [laughs]. Our community is very diverse, and many people want many different things. Empty nesters want to downsize to more manageable sized homes and are looking for affordable housing, as are the young families starting out. Job security is also important. The high cost of everything is a major concern.
Traffic in and out of Ewa is a nightmare, education and classroom size for the Campbell High School parents is a major concern. The government’s constant over-reaching trying to challenge the Constitution that in turn threatens citizens’ freedoms.
Older retirees [are] hoping that the government will not tax their retirement, and those just hoping at the very least they will have Social Security that they have paid into for all their adult life. Over-development of prime agricultural lands, you name it, there is something for everyone to get upset about.
“I was raised in a very simple home on simple meals, and my mom had to stretch the food to make enough for everyone to eat.”
DDG: In Hawaii—and especially your district—not everyone has air-conditioning; not all of the public schools do. Ewa is under the final approach path for Honolulu International Airport, which means that you have a non-stop roar of jumbo jet noise disrupting your classrooms with open windows. Students have to breathe in dust, suffer with mosquitoes, bird mites and heat. Why aren’t sealed and air-conditioned homes and schools the default in Hawaii?
Jeremiah: It has only been in the last 10-15 years or so that we have begun to build homes and schools with central A/C in them. The thought used to be that with our tradewinds an air-conditioned space was a luxury, not a necessity. But as we developed over the years, we’ve reduced or altered the tradewind affect.
Owners of older homes are upgrading to A/C. Our schools, unfortunately, have been ignored, so now schools can get very hot, then include overcrowded classrooms, and the need for A/C has become a crisis along with classroom space. Unfortunately, our past and current elected officials have been more interested in supporting special interests than addressing this issue that has been getting worse for many years now, and is one of many reasons I decided to run for office.
DDG: Oahu, the island you live on, is legendary for bad commute times and awful traffic. Oahu had an incident last year where the HOV “zipper lane” malfunctioned and people were stranded in downtown Honolulu, some for four to six hours, many of whom were Ewa residents. What do you say when people ask, “How do we fix this” when it comes to traffic?
Jeremiah: The question comes up quite often, but again the problem is these issues find their way to the neighborhood board and into the laps of our representatives, who in turn do nothing but talk about it. As far as a fix, we have discussed extending the zipper to Makakilo, adding an additional lane to the zipper, creating a contraflow lane out of Ewa Beach—anything to get the ball rolling, but it has fallen on deaf ears again no support from those who could actually make a difference.