TGI editor returning to mainland

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After six years of writing for The Garden Island newspaper, including a year as editor of this publication, this is my last week at TGI.

I’m off on a new adventure with so much gratitude in my heart for the lessons I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had and the opportunity to contribute to the beautiful community here on Kaua‘i. I’m excited for the future — for the paper, for the island and for myself. Equally — I’m so sad to be saying “aloha” to the incredible group of friends I’ve made on this island; friends that have become family.

As I look back over the years, one of the first stories I ever covered for the paper comes to mind: a Sept. 11, 2015 story titled “Hanalei principal under fire.” I met Bill Arakaki that day. He was still superintendent for the Kauai complex and met with parents who were unhappy with the leadership style of then-principal Lisa McDonald. I’ll never forget Bill’s even-keel leadership and connection to community.

I was also impressed with the passion of the parents, who organized a sign-holding event outside the school. That situation was solved with a mutual desire to provide the best education possible for the keiki involved. Allan Parachini — I think this is the first time we met, right?

In 2017, I sat with Harold and Kevin Vidinha on their fishing boat off the coast of Lehua Islet and watched the state move forward with air-dropping green pellets of rodenticide and cereal onto the crescent-shaped land mass. The plan was to eradicate the rats that had overpopulated the island, rats that were killing off native plants and deterring birds from nesting.

I was honored to be able to sit alongside fishermen who were willing to show me why they were concerned about the project — and to be in contact with the folks who were coordinating the effort, who truly believed they were doing the right thing. We watched as those green pellets bounced down the steep hillside and straight into the ocean.

There were a few fish deaths reported in the days that followed, too, but test results would be inconclusive as to their cause of death. Nothing else seemed to be affected by the rodenticide drop — except the rats. The state hailed that project a success in 2021. Hey, Harold and Kevin — remember crossing the channel in the dark that morning? The boat was nearly vertical!

Later that summer, another boat took me to the Kaulakahi Channel with Cascadia Research Collective’s Robin Baird and the team. For the first time on that trip, they photographed a hybrid between a melon-headed whale and rough-toothed dolphin. What a thrill to be present for that!

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative busted so many barriers over the last six years. Beth Tokioka, how many times have we talked electricity now? Three cheers for the Tesla solar array! And the hydro project! Now it’s a matter of making sure all those moving parts are working together properly so we can avoid island-wide outages like what happened on April 29 of this year.

In April 2018, we had the rain bomb on the North Shore. Aafke Zeitz, do you remember telling me that story about your neighbor saving your golden retriever from the rising waters? Whew!!

Just a few months later Hurricane Lane added more flood damage to homes around the island, I spent quite a bit of time chatting with Kent Placeb on-site at Weke Road in August of that year. We ran into Patsy Sheehan, who was on her way to help clean up flood damage at one of her kids’ houses. Patsy, remember the flies? There were so many!

Reporting on the UFO (unidentified floating object) at ‘Aliomanu Beach also comes to mind. People had so many fun theories on what that was. Skip Schaefer, did we ever figure out that mystery, definitively?

And speaking of marine debris, I’ll miss going on adventures with Barbara Wiender, Carl Berg and the rest of the Surfrider Kaua‘i Team. Keep up the good work. I still think that marine-debris bar installation at the Aqua Kaua‘i Beach Resort is one of the more epic poolside bars I’ve seen.

And speaking of epic — Sandy Swift, remember the fishing trip on Gina’s boat Kai Bear (Go Fish Kaua‘i)? We saw a massive bird pile, but we already had a fish on the hook! We couldn’t reel it in fast enough.

From pau hana with Cody and Amanda Swift at Swift Automotive to talking story with Fern Holland and Tara Dalessi (remember the piece we did on Waldorf-style mermaid dolls?!), I just have to say mahalo to the Kaua‘i community for being so welcoming and for letting me experience life along-side you.

I got married on Kaua‘i. I successfully battled breast cancer on Kaua‘i. And now, I’m off on a new adventure — going in a totally different direction for a while. At the beginning of June, I’ll be moving to Idaho to see about taking over the family business — building high-end custom homes in the mountains with Else Construction.

I’m going to miss the ‘ohana at TGI — going on outings with Dennis Fujimoto (Dennis! Remember the wood roses in Koke‘e?) and jamming out to the Dropkick Murphys with Richard Stein. I know if I start naming off everybody, I’ll skip someone — but all you folks at TGI are amazing. I’ll miss you.

I’ll never stop writing, that’s a fact, but I have yet to see what route my writing will take; probably a heavier focus on freelancing or pet projects — like writing about my birds or health-related topics. Someday I’ll tell the entire story of my battle with breast cancer. You can keep track of me at jessicaelse.com and can always reach out to say hi via email: thejessicaelse@gmail.com.

For everything, mahalo Kaua‘i. Till we meet again!

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Jessica Else, editor, can be reached at 245-0457 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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