Gov. Neil Abercrombie named Maui Memorial Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo on Wednesday as the Maui representative to the newly appointed Board of Education.
The Wailuku resident said his willingness to accept the governor's appointment was a means to be a part of an issue he's passionate about.
"Health care and education are kind of the building blocks of society," Lo said in a telephone interview from Honolulu. "In sort of an indirect way, I get to be a part of that."
He said he recognized that as the overall administrator of the island's only acute-care hospital, his schedule will only get busier with the appointment. He's already talked to nominated Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, an at-large appointee who works as chief executive officer and chairman of First Hawaiian Bank, and they've briefly discussed how board operations can run efficiently.
For example, Lo envisions that some meetings will be held by teleconference. "They're looking for restructuring things and ways to be more efficient," he said.
Abercrombie announced his appointments Wednesday following the enactment of Act 5, which established the legislation for the governor to appoint BOE members. His appointments - three from Oahu, three at-large and one each from Hawaii, Maui and Kauai - require confirmation by the state Senate.
Lo's term on the board will run for three years. He said he was asked by the Abercrombie administration to apply for the board position and did so out of support for the public school system.
"It's not that I have any complaints about the Department of Education," he said.
Lo's wife, Nadine Gushi-Lo, works as a DOE outreach counselor at Maui High School. Their son, Reggie, attends Baldwin High School as a junior; and daughter, Noelle, is a 1st-grader at Pomaikai Elementary School in Kahului.
"Frankly, I'm just delighted with my kids' education," Lo said. "I certainly wish all kids would be given the opportunity to reach their potential."
Lo previously served as the Maui County finance director. He's also had employment stints as an executive with Continental Pacific Mortgage Co., Finance Mortgage Ltd., First Hawaiian Bank and Maui Radiology Consultants.
He said he believes his background in finance in both the public and private sector "might be helpful" to the Board of Education.
In addition, under his leadership at Maui Memorial, the hospital has successfully sought and received more autonomy from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. for its day-to-day operations and finances.
"That's what's happening today with public education, we're moving toward giving more autonomy to principals and teachers," he said.
A 1978 Punahou School graduate, Lo is treasurer of the Maui Economic Opportunity Business Development Corp. and vice chairman of the Maui Economic Development Board.
Kihei resident Leona Rocha Wilson, who was elected in November to serve as the Maui representative to the Board of Education, commended the appointment. She sought appointment to the position by Abercrombie but said she expected she would not get it.
"Wesley Lo has done an incredible job with the hospital. I know he will be a tremendous asset to the Board of Education," Wilson said. "The governor's appointment is better than good. I think it's a great one."
An announcement from the governor's office said there were more than 150 applicants seeking the nine BOE appointments.
The Board of Education oversees the state Department of Education, which has a $1.7 billion annual operating budget. The department is one of the state's largest organizations, with more employees than the state's five largest private-sector employers combined.