WAILUKU - Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa has appointed Will Spence to be planning director for Maui County and Glenn Correa as head of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Spence has worked as a private planning consultant for eight years and previously served as a senior staff planner for the county from 1992 to 2002. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in urban and regional planning from the School of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic at Pomona.
Observers praised Spence as a good choice to lead the department. With a history of working on small, family projects, rather than large, controversial developments, several noted that Spence would come to the department without major baggage.
Appointed Dept. of P&R director
Appointed planning director
Appointed Dept. of P&R deputy director
Appointed deputy planning director
"There's always been something of public service in me," Spence said Friday. "That's the reason I got into planning in the first place."
Arakawa also announced the appointment of Michele Chouteau McLean as deputy planning director Friday.
The appointments of Spence and McLean replace current Planning Director Kathleen Aoki and Deputy Planning Director Ann Cua.
McLean currently serves as deputy director of the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission and previously worked as a land use planner for Smith Development, operated her own consulting firm and worked as a legislative analyst for the county's Office of Council Services. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Vassar College.
In a written statement, McLean said she was honored by the appointment and was looking forward to taking a "proactive approach to our planning processes."
Arakawa said in a written statement that he was "thrilled" to appoint Spence and McLean.
"We are confident that they will work tirelessly to address the many challenges that face the community to build a better community for us and future generations," he said.
Spence said his prior experience gave him a perspective from both sides of the county's planning process - both as a planner and as someone seeking permits.
"I just really think our processes can be helped a lot, to be more reliable both for the county and for the private side," he said. "Predictability is a word I really believe in."
He said reforming the county's permitting process - a goal that's been notoriously challenging for prior planning directors - would require changes to the zoning code as well as to the department's rules of procedure.
"That's something we'll have to work cooperatively with the council on," he said.
With the enforcement and regulation of unpermitted vacation rentals being a major issue raised in the mayoral campaign, Spence said he would work with the new administration to determine the department's policy on the issue.
"I certainly believe we need to develop a permitting system for vacation rentals," he said. "As far as enforcement, we'll be discussing that with the administrative team."
Spence also inherits the task of overseeing the behind-schedule Maui Island Plan and update of the county's General Plan 2030. Last month, the County Council announced that it would defer its review of the plan until next year, after missing an October deadline to take action on the document.
"There will probably be some adjustments to the plan," Spence said. "I think we want to bring some clarity. The plan is supposed to be treated as law, and some of the vagueness of the plan needs to be clarified, but I don't see major delays. I see us working very cooperatively with the council on that."
Planning consultant Mercer "Chubby" Vicens said Friday that Spence and McLean would be "a good team."
"I've got a lot of respect for Will," he said. "I think he did a good job while he was in the department, and in the years he's been out of the department, he's conducted himself very well. He's got good balance. For the most part, he represents developers, but he uses a lot of forethought in what he does."
Community advocate Dick Mayer, who served on the General Plan Advisory Committee, said Spence was known for working on "small-scale projects and working with families" and has kept a relatively low profile on controversial issues and big development.
"In that sense, it's a fresh start," he said.
Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, Chairwoman Lucienne de Naie said she was "very happy to see Will back at the county."
She said she worked with him when he was a county planner assigned to the Upcountry Community Plan in the 1990s and found him to be dedicated and accessible.
"I think it's nice to have a fresh face with longtime experience," she said.
She also called McLean "another very bright, competent person."
"We're going to need these people," she said. "We've got a lot of ground to cover."
Late Friday, Arakawa announced his appointment of Correa as the incoming head of the parks department he led from 2003 to 2006. And, he named the department's chief of planning and development, Patrick Matsui, as the new deputy director.
Correa has been with the parks department since 1973, when he was hired as an electrician helper. He was deputy director under the administration of former Mayor James "Kimo" Apana.
Born and raised on Maui, Correa is married to Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation Executive Director Ululani Correa.
Arakawa called Correa "one of the most outstanding and hardworking directors in my administration."
"Whatever goals that the managing director or I set for the department, director Correa worked tirelessly and collaboratively to accomplish the goals in an efficient manner," he said.
A lifelong Maui resident, Matsui received his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota. He has worked for the county for 38 years, working in the Planning Department, Mayor's Office, Department of Public Works and the Parks and Recreation Department.
Matsui has been chief of parks planning and development for 17 years.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.