By Char Ravelo

Carrice Gardner and her daughter. Contributed photo

Be open to the possibilities.

Born and raised in Kilauea, Kaua‘i’s Northshore, Carrice Gardner never imagined herself working for the governor of Hawai‘i as the Kaua‘i representative. In her youth, she didn’t know such a job existed, and likewise, for her next adventure as a Stakeholder Relations Manager in a large company. Today, as a successful professional women, wife and mother of a 6-year-old daughter, she looks back in wonderment — how did she get here?

As a young person, Carrice was involved in the Hawai‘i State Student Council and various clubs. Her curiosity took her to researching the history of current events, what occurred leading up it, how governments and communities addressed issues, and the processes of how certain laws and rules were implemented.

After graduating from Pepperdine University with a political science degree, Carrice’s first job in the banking industry did not suit her, but she was committed to learning by doing her best. This stick-to-itiveness opened doors to her dream job in a prestigious company as marketing and business development specialist. She was in San Francisco, Calif. for 10 years before being called home to help her family. As time passed, Carrice rediscovered the specialness of Kaua‘i and fell back in love with it. Her interested in the community grew, and she wanted to be a part of it. “This is my island home. I care about it and want to help where I can,” she said.

Priceless Support

Unofficial mentors are people who are not assigned to this role, yet they take time and interest to help others to grow. Encouragers are people who give hope to others in the workplace. Carrice credits two women who recognized her drive and genuine desire to accomplish more than expected. They gave her guidance and confidence to navigate challenging situations. She hopes to give back in the same way, and invites all professionals to help others to succeed through a unique and valuable connection.

Leadership Style

Carrice developed her leadership style by observing respected leaders and emulating their qualities. She was most impressed by an island leader who dealt with an extremely contentious situation and admired his “hot seat behavior.” He did not hide from the people, he listened, was calm and spoke with aloha. She learned then that Kauai is a small community. “It is important to communicate in a way that people will hear you. Be open and listen. Know your community or group to better address their concerns and issues, seek to understand where they are coming from. You can never over-communicate, be kind and use discernment when responding genuinely and truthfully,” Carrice said.

As the Governor’s liaison she was frequently in front of Kaua‘i’s leaders. Naturally shy, she joined the LK annual adult program. Being with peers who were in the same boat increased her speaking skills and courage to broach difficult conversations. Her LK experience was far more than she ever anticipated it would be.

Valuable Advice for Professionals and Working Mothers

  • I feel it’s important to pray and be willing to listen, but also to work hard and give 100 percent in everything you do — it’s all a learning experience.
  • Do something you are interested in and passionate about. Figure out what you’re good at doing, where your talents are. You’ll enjoy your work so much more and be better at it.
  • If you don’t know your passion or talents right away, it’s ok. Try new things. Each job you have can shed light on what those things are. I never knew specifically what I wanted to be when I “grew up” (and still don’t). It was always changing and evolves with each job experience but I’m excited about where I am now and what’s ahead.
  • Other advice for working mothers:  Do your best. It can be a juggling act but when you have time with your child, make sure you give them your full attention (as much as possible). Put down your cell phone, stop checking emails and put a timer on your social media. Let them know they’re important by giving them the time you do have.

Be open to the possibilities in life, every experience can be a learning one and you never know where you might wind up in this journey. ~ Carrice Gardner, LK 2019 

  • Char Ravelo is the Executive Director of Leadership Kaua‘i, and can be contacted at or (808) 246-8727. Leadership Kauaʻi Class of 2023 starts Sept. 16-17, 2022. Visit for applications.

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