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Paving Her Own Way

Hawaii State Representative Cindy Evans credits hard work for her path to success

The Hawaii House of Representatives is a part-time legislature, but Cindy Evans (D-HI) considers it her full-time job—and then some. When she’s not in session in Honolulu, Rep. Evans, who also serves as majority floor leader, is back in her home district meeting with community leaders, listening to the needs of constituents, researching issues and helping effect change one step at a time.

Originally from Illinois, Rep. Evans was introduced to the idea of public service early on. Her parents were both World War II veterans, and her father, who was a plumber, was an elected representative in his union.

After graduating from high school, Rep. Evans moved to Washington state to pursue a degree in oceanography, but ultimately studied business administration. She worked full-time at a phone company to pay her tuition bills.

“While there, I became a union steward, which taught me a lot about negotiation and finding common ground,” says the member of Hawai’i Loa Chapter, Kamuela, Hawaii.

Later, she took a state government job, representing the government’s interests in Washington’s ports and harbors.

Rep. Evans moved to Hawaii in 1999, after living in Malaysia where her husband, Rick, worked. She settled into life full-time on the Big Island, while Ricky commuted to Malaysia, coming home every three months.

“We did that for about 20 years,” she says. “He had a wonderful career there, and it was exciting for me to start my new life here.”

As part of getting in touch with her new community, Rep. Evans attended a town hall meeting in 2001, and realized public office might be a good match for her background, experience and skillset.

She ran against the incumbent the following year and won by 112 votes. In office since 2003, Rep. Evans has served seven consecutive terms representing the northwest corner of the Big Island.

Once elected, she got to work improving the West Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, which is located in her district in Kailua-Kona. “It had sunken graves and looked terrible,” she says. “When I talked to veterans about it, they were really upset.”

She helped organize local veterans’ groups and secure funding from the state of Hawaii to create a master plan for the site. Once a plan was set, the federal government, along with private donors, helped fund the restoration.

“Fast forward many years later, and we now have a beautiful cemetery,” she says. “It’s considered one of the top veterans’ cemeteries in the United States.”

In addition to helping veterans, Rep. Evans is also passionate about women’s issues, including ensuring equal opportunity and pay in the workplace, and preventing domestic and sexual abuse. 

“It is an honor to be at the table representing women, but it’s also a challenge, because our numbers are dropping in the Hawaii state legislature,” she says. “I think there should be equal numbers of men and women when we’re voting on any issue, and I’d certainly like to see more women believe that they need to be at that table.”

Rep. Evans also represents Hawaii as a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures. With the organization, she has traveled to Saudi Arabia and Japan, helping to represent American legislators on issues such as economic development and higher education.

In her free time, Rep. Evans enjoys gardening and Chinese brush painting, as well as donating her time and expertise to various community organizations. 

“I’ve had good health, a good education and wonderful exposure to so many unique opportunities, so every day I try to find ways to give back for all that’s been given to me,” she says.

That includes the DAR, which she joined after members from across the country volunteered to help research her lineage.

“People whom I had never met in Illinois, Kentucky, even in Virginia were doing research, visiting courthouses and looking at old newspapers to help prove my lineage. Their passion and dedication impressed me so much that I knew the DAR was a special organization.”