Editor’s Page: Changing of the Guard

People making a difference.
Robbie Dingeman

The new year brings that annual feeling of starting fresh, and this year our community can expect some changes.


In October, Susan Ballard, a 32-year veteran of the badge, was selected unanimously by the city Police Commission as the 11th chief of police in the department’s history. She’s also the first woman, but for any of us who’ve encountered her in the community, her gender is less important than her straightforward approach. Ballard took over the same month that her predecessor, Chief Louis Kealoha, and his prosecutor wife, Katherine, were indicted on federal corruption charges in a case that has rocked the department for years. We sat down to talk about her goals and first weeks on the job.


Chief Ballard earned a reputation of someone who does the right thing for the right reason, is fair in the community and in the department. Her first steps have included the release of a simplified mission statement, “serving and protecting with aloha,” and vision statement, “the community and HPD working together to make our island safe.” She also repealed the requirement that police wear ties and hats daily; reinstated the juvenile services division; and initiated studies to see where more police need to be assigned, from Kaka‘ako to Koa Ridge.


She credits two former supervisors, retired Senior Deputy Chief Bill Clark and retired Assistant Chief Stephen Watarai, for helping to shape her leadership style. From Clark: “‘Why do you keep running into the wall? The wall’s not going to move.’ Basically, don’t do the same thing over and over when you know it’s not going to work,” she says. “Figure out how to do it another way.”


Chief Susan Ballard
Chief Susan Ballard
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


She says Watarai taught her: “I trust you until you show me that I can’t trust you anymore.”


We’re seeing our community evolve, grappling with rising expenses, a growing population and new opportunities and businesses. On the civic front, we begin an election year that will give voters the option to elect a new governor or re-elect Gov. David Ige. And we’re choosing a new member of Congress, with U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa leaving that seat open to challenge Ige.


Closer to home in our office, we’re happy to welcome staff writer Jayna Omaye, who has covered community issues in Central and West O‘ahu for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Before returning home to the Islands after earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree, she was a reporter in Florida for the Orlando Sentinel, where her beat included courts, crime and curriculum.


This month, we’re also proud to present our annual Hale ‘Aina restaurant awards special issue. The awards, first announced last September at a gala dinner and celebration, will reach age 35 this year. Readers vote, usually online, for their favorite eating places on a ballot that lists six names and a write-in line. In one category–Restaurateur of the Year–our staff makes the pick based on food, service, innovation and reputation. This year’s award goes to Colin Nishida, the old-school proprietor of Side Street Inn and its newer cousin, Side Street Inn on Da Strip. Food and dining editor Catherine Toth Fox delicately handled the task of getting Nishida to come to the awards ceremony. Since our awards are a surprise, our events team invites restaurants that have won but those invited don’t know which category or place until that night’s announcement.


Nishida is a man who’s weathered change and stayed true to his low-key demeanor even when winning accolades from blunt-talking world traveler Anthony Bourdain. We’re honored that he could join us, thankful for his good food (especially the boneless kal bi) and look forward to dining at Side Street and other award-winning restaurants in the coming year.


Confession: I keep this issue and the June Restaurant Guide in my car for on-the-go reference.


Here’s to a happy, healthy new year for all.


Thoughts about the magazine? Please email me at robbied@honolulumagazine.com.