Professionals are needed

On Monday, several residents testified before the County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee in support of a charter amendment that would provide for a strong, professional managing director.

During the 2016 election cycle, attempts were made to change Maui’s government to a council-manager model. Resistance to such a change was based on the traditional role of a mayor in county government, the feeling that it would give the legislative branch (the council) too much power, and that it would leave the managing director with nine bosses.

A revised proposal would retain the mayor’s position but make a strong managing director the chief operating officer of the county with the power to hire and fire department directors.

The goal of such a change would be to bring professional managers to the top of the government and each department. Currently, department directors are often political appointees by the mayor and the managing director is basically just an aide to the mayor.

As Maui County continues its rapid growth, it is more important than ever that professionals be hired, and retained, to run county departments. We will soon have billion-dollar a year county budgets, and the demands of a population approaching 200,000 are much different today than when the charter was adopted 50 years ago.

It is important to remember that the political skills required to be elected mayor probably do not translate into the skills needed to administer billion-dollar budgets. And our county departments need the continuity and expertise that professionals can bring to them.

We urge the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee and the council as a whole to study and then move the proposal forward — and then get it on the ballot as a charter amendment. The day-to-day workings of our growing county government need to be performed by professionals — not political appointees.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.