6. Linda Lingle
Gubernatorial Candidate, Republican Party
Linda Lingle’s positive attitude is infectious, say people who have worked with her for decades. Her ability to lead is uncanny. “She has an amazing talent to get people interested and excited about what can be possible,” says a Republican party supporter who has worked with her in the past.
Lingle also is very curious. “She’s interested in new things and wants to know about everything,” says Lloyd M. Yonenaka, former public information officer for Maui county. “That makes her mind very broad. She may not have made up her mind, but she wants the information.”
Perhaps it’s that hybrid combination of journalist and politician that makes her an inquisitive leader. Lingle founded theMolokai Free Press more than 20 years ago, straight out of journalism school. But reporting the news wasn’t enough, and she turned to politics, where she knew she could make a positive impact on the community. She was elected to the Maui County Council in 1980 and served three terms before being elected mayor of Maui, once in 1990 and again in 1994. Not only was she the first woman and the youngest, non-Maui person to serve as mayor, but she changed the county’s budgeting system from a line-item to a performance-based system. For the first time, the public was able to track how their tax dollars were being spent. Under her leadership, Maui county streamlined its permit process, making it more user-friendly for businesses and government. At the same time, Maui increased its promotional and marketing budget tenfold. Conde Naste magazine recognized this and called Maui “Best Island in the World.”
Lingle ran for governor in 1998 and narrowly lost to Gov. Ben Cayetano. She’s in the race again this year. Hawaii’s Top 250 company executives say she is the No. 1 choice for governor, according to an independent survey by Hawaii Business magazine (see “Power Poll” in the May 2002 and August 2002 issues). In the May survey, 50 percent of executives said Lingle is the candidate most committed to business; in the August survey, 73 percent of executives once again said she was the gubernatorial candidate most committed to business.
“Businesspeople tend to want to be able to look at something and know what they’re dealing with,” Yonenaka says. “Linda doesn’t pull any surprises. What you see is what you get. And that’s her strength.”
— Cathy S. Cruz