Training Kaua‘i Residents To Be Leaders

Sherri ‘Puni’ Patrick at home with Sabalicious

Sherri ‘Puni’ Patrick found the perfect job, which in both the short-term and long-term benefit our Island

A series of fortuitous connections led Sherri “Puni” Patrick to her dream job as executive director of Leadership Kaua’i. On July 1, she steps into some big slippahs that Mason Chock’s exit leaves for her to fill.

Chock will remain, but in a different capacity, helping Leadership Kaua’i grow. This nonprofit organization helps ensure future leadership for the Garden Isle by bringing together a cross-section of qualified residents, helping them develop their leadership skills and enabling them to solve challenges collaboratively.

In a given year, a class of 20 adults and another of 20 teens take on projects that range from historic landmark restoration to beautification; from weed whacking invasive plants in Koke’e to setting up speaker series that help island residents broaden their perspectives, and much more. Whatever the project, adults and youths participating in their separate Leadership Kaua’i classes work within their teams to design and implement something that betters the community – and gives them valuable skills.

Patrick with partner Thomas Nizo

“I’m excited to be part of a program that has so many great people in it,” says Patrick, who has 15 years under her belt in marketing for a real estate broker and development firm in California. “I’m just excited to be around people who have a sense for community, who love Kaua’i and are goal-driven to make differences.”

This job is a boon for Patrick, whose accomplishments include being a haku mele – composer, song-writer – musician and hula student. She’s been interested in leadership programs for years, ever since she attended one at UH-Hilo in 1986, the Year of the Hawaiian.

She says, “I was so impressed with the Hawaiian leaders who came to the conference and the mana’o they shared, their love for the people and trying to lift our people up and give them pride again and give them resources.”

Over the years she’d surf the Internet for information on Hawaiian leadership. Having recently returned home to the Islands after raising her son for 18 years on the Mainland, Kailua-born Patrick was again searching the Internet when she found an entry: Kaua’i Leadership.

Reading about it, she thought it would benefit her partner Thomas Nizo, who enrolled at her urging. Not long after, the executive director position opened, Patrick applied and was accepted.

Patrick is stoked. She’s got the job, the guy and one more great gift – “Grams.” She and Nizo live with his grandmother in her home in Makaweli, a picture-postcard life of old Hawaii, where an evening’s entertainment is Grams talking story of days gone by.

Mason Chock and Sherri Patrick

Driving home to the west side each night after work, turning at the Makaweli Post Office to rattle down an iron-rich red dirt road lined with permanently red-stained rocks into a land that time forgot; heading into the yard that ends at the ocean where the smokehouse stands and Sabalicious the piglet squeals when you lift him up – Patrick gets it.

“Being able to work in the city in Lihu’e, but to be able to come here at night, having a wonderful job and what it stands for and how it’s really making a difference in the community with people – I feel so blessed,” she says.

“I’m grateful to have balance in my life – love from a great man, a strong relationship with my son, being able to come home to Hawaii and to bring the things that I learned on the continent that I think will help me in what I do.”

Kaua’i Leads The Way

Mason Chock, Leadership Kaua’i’s executive director until July 1, is making a parallel move that will allow him to step away from the position he’s held since 2007 in order to help the organization to grow further.

For one thing, organizations and agencies statewide are clamoring for more of the same that Leadership Kaua’i has been offering. It’s the first program of its kind in the state, says Chock.

He came onboard Leadership Kaua’i in 2006 as the program director, succeeding Tim Bynum in the executive director’s role in 2007, and that’s given him plenty chops to help grow leadership in many more communities.

“We serve about 50 youths and adults in a program each year,” says Chock. “In order for us to achieve a tipping point in getting change within our community, we need to affect more people.

“We’re affected by the same issues as people on the other islands.The intention with this change is for Sherri (Patrick) to handle our core programs and for me to step outside and continue to create the Kaua’i model in other communities.”

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