HONOLULU — Former Big Island Mayor Stephen Yamashiro has died at the age of 69.
Hawaii County spokesman Kevin Dayton said that Yamashiro succumbed to pneumonia at Hilo Medical Center on the evening of May 24. He had also been fighting heart disease.
The fiscally conservative Yamashiro was mayor from 1992 to 2000, and was known for resisting tax increases and holding the line on spending and hiring. He was instrumental in extending the runway at Kona International Airport to accommodate larger jets, which brought more tourists to the island.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said in a statement, “Mayor Yamashiro loved this community, and was a loyal friend and mentor to many. He was always ready with advice and suggestions, sharing generously of his many years of experience as a community leader. He will be missed, and I want to offer my condolences to his wife Della.
“As Hawaii County Council chairman and mayor, Mayor Yamashiro led our community through a very difficult transition period. As the last of the plantations closed in the 1990s, the Big Island was searching for new directions, and Mayor Yamashiro helped steer our island community into the future. His support and advocacy of sectors such as diversified agriculture, forestry and geothermal power are still paying dividends for our residents today. He knew where we needed to go, and he led the way. We are grateful for Mayor Yamashiro’s many contributions to our community.”
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) said, “Steve Yamashiro was conscientious and worked tirelessly at problems that needed solving. I enjoyed working with him during his tenure as mayor. Among his many accomplishments, he was a strong supporter of the visitor industry, agriculture, the University of Hawaii, and the film industry on Hawaii Island. Stephen Yamashiro was a dear friend and I will always cherish his friendship. He will no doubt be sorely missed by the people of Hawaii Island.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) added, “Mr. Yamashiro was mayor during the early years of my political career – and I remember him as a no-nonsense leader who was never afraid to take the unpopular position if he believed it was in the best interest of the people of the Big Island. I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife, Della, and the rest of his family and friends.”