Kirk Caldwell was born in Waipahu and raised in Hilo, the oldest son of a plantation and country doctor. He studied Urban Planning and Economics at Tufts University, earned an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and received his law degree from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law.
Kirk was Managing Partner at the law firm of Ashford and Wriston, and began his public service career in 2002, when he was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives, and quickly rose to become the House Majority Leader.
In January 2009, Kirk was appointed Managing Director for the City and County of Honolulu, and later served as Acting Mayor in 2010. During his tenure at the City, Kirk was the primary point person for two of Oahu’s biggest issues, transit and homelessness. He successfully expedited $150 million in road repaving, was at the helm at Civil Defense during the 2010 tsunami, and was part of the team that balanced the City’s budgets during the Great Recession, while protecting vital public services.
Kirk is married to Donna Tanoue, who served as State Commissioner of Financial Institutions in the Ariyoshi administration, was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and is today Vice Chair for the Bank of Hawaii. They have a daughter, Maya, who recently started college.