WAILUKU - Incoming Mayor Alan Arakawa has nominated Wailuku attorney Patrick Wong for the post of corporation counsel, with longtime Deputy Corporation Counsel Ed Kushi promoted to the department's second-in-command.
Wong has worked as an attorney in private practice with a focus on workers' compensation, personal injury and employment law, and previously worked in litigation defense in Honolulu. He received his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and served as a Maui staff member of former U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Wong's appointment is subject to confirmation by the Maui County Council.
Reached at his offices Wednesday, he said he hoped to draw on his background as an attorney in private practice to bring change to the Department of the Corporation Counsel, which provides legal advice to county officials.
"I think I'll bring a different attitude and outlook to the position," he said.
He also said his experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants in private litigation cases would be valuable as he leads the staff of attorneys who defend the county against lawsuits.
Kushi holds a bachelor's degree from Colorado State University and a law degree from Washburn School of Law. He has been with the department since 1999.
In a statement, Arakawa said he was "pleased" to name Wong and Kushi to head the county's legal team.
"Their qualifications and experience are extensive, and their commitment to our Maui Nui community is deep," he said.
Wong said he recognized that one challenge of the job was serving both the Maui County Council and the mayor and administration - two entities which can sometimes be at odds.
"I'd like to see if we can try to get both sides to the table," he said. "Both entities are there for the county good, and I
would envision my role as advocating for the greater good of Maui County."
Other attorneys who know Wong said he was a good choice.
"He has uncompromising ethics; he instills confidence and trust," said attorney William Sloper, who shared office space with Wong. "He has a unique ability to negotiate conflicts in a reasonable way that really brings people together."
Attorney Mark Honda said Wong was "energetic, intelligent, experienced."
He also had a strong background in litigation, Honda said.
"I believe he's going to bring a fresh perspective," he said. "He's a gentleman who fits the position. Works well with people and groups. He's an excellent attorney, and I believe he has the demeanor fitting to the office."
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.