Mateo appointment as county clerk pending

Jeffrey Kuwada has retired as Maui County clerk, effective Sunday, and former County Council Chairman Danny Mateo is on deck to replace him.

If appointed, Mateo said he would seek to remain in the position beyond the end of the appointment on Jan. 2, 2015, meaning that he would not try to reclaim the Molokai council residency seat he gave up after completing his limit of five consecutive two-year terms in 2012.

A resolution for Mateo’s appointment to the $93,400 annual position is on Friday’s council agenda.

Currently serving as an executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa for $64,000 per year, Mateo said Wednesday morning that he’s waiting for Friday’s council meeting “to see whether or not there is support of that resolution by the council members.”

Reached at home, Kuwada said he had retired, but he preferred not to comment on his reasons for doing so. His resignation was so sudden that he remains listed as county clerk on the county’s online staff directory.

Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa said Kuwada’s retirement did not come out of the blue, although it may seem that way because it’s surfacing publicly now.

“He has been thinking about it for a while,” she said, adding that he submitted a formal notice that he would retire December 1 at the end of October.”

Baisa said Mateo’s name came up on a short list of possible candidates who’d be qualified for the position.

“He certainly is well qualified,” she said. “I’m very confident he’ll do an excellent job.”

Mateo said he learned about Kuwada’s pending retirement a couple of weeks ago.

The former council chairman said he’s “very interested” in serving as county clerk, a position that would allow him to continue working for the county, while also putting him in charge of running county elections and in preserving and upkeeping county records.

Running elections has “always been an interest,” Mateo said, especially since he has participated in the elections process himself as a candidate.

There are advantages to not running for office, he pointed out. Those include not needing to organize or finance a campaign.

In a Nov. 6 letter to Baisa, state Office of Elections Chief Election Officer Scott Nago emphasized the importance of county clerks and their deputies in conducting elections in Hawaii.

“The success of our federal, state and county elections in your county rests significantly upon your county clerk,” Nago said. “Past experience reflects that there are countless details that the county clerk’s election staff are responsible for and even an isolated mistake can have a cascade effect upon the success or failure of an election.”

As an executive assistant to the mayor, Mateo travels home to Molokai, where he owns a residence, two to three times a month, while renting a home in Pukalani, he said.

If he’s appointed county clerk, he said he’d likely not go home to Molokai as often, maybe only once a month.

Mateo’s appointment as county clerk would spare incumbent Molokai Council Member Stacy Crivello a race against him to retain her seat for a second term. She was elected to the residency seat in 2012 and took office in January. She chairs the council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee.

When asked if he’s spoken to Crivello, Mateo said that he had.

“She is very supportive,” he said.

Crivello was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Council members’ gross annual income is $76,475, and the council chairman or -woman earns $82,225.

Mayor’s Office spokesman Rod Antone said that if Mateo were appointed to the county clerk’s position, the Mayor’s Office would regret losing him.

“He’s been an asset to the Mayor’s Office, especially in lobbying the Legislature and working with the Molokai community,” he said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at