Mayor-elect picks top staff, 11 directors
Department heads require council approval
WAILUKU — Mayor-elect Mike Victorino announced his appointees for chief of staff, managing director and 10 other department directors on Monday afternoon — a slate which included five current directors and the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Victorino made the announcement at his campaign headquarters, giving council members a month to mull over his director choices before they officially vet the appointees early next year.
The appointees to lead the departments are:
• Department of Corporation Counsel: Patrick Wong.
• Department of Environmental Management: Michael Miyamoto.
• Department of Finance: Marci Sato.
• Department of Housing and Human Concerns: Will Spence.
• Department of Management: Sananda “Sandy” Baz.
• Department of Parks and Recreation: Karla Peters.
• Department of Planning: Michele McLean.
• Department of Prosecuting Attorney: John D. Kim.
• Department of Public Works: David Goode.
• Department of Transportation: Marc Takamori.
• Department of Water Supply: Jeff Pearson.
• Chief of Staff: Deidre Tegarden.
Victorino said that his appointees for deputy directors would be announced “in a couple of days” and that the rest of his staff would be announced early next week.
A seven-member panel spent more than three weeks reviewing the candidates. Victorino said they received more than 300 applications and that he went along with “almost 90 percent” of the panel’s recommendations. The panel members who vetted the candidates were JoAnn Inamasu, Vincent Mina, Peter Niess, Madge Schaefer, Jeanne Skog, Tony Takitani and Terryl Vencl.
“I’m excited. I’ve got a great team,” Victorino said. “I hope the public understands that this process was very extensive, and that I tried to look for the best qualified people-oriented directors, and I believe I found them.”
Five appointees are current department heads and have served the past eight years under Mayor Alan Arakawa — Wong, Kim, Spence, McLean and Goode.
Wong has been practicing law in Hawaii for more than 25 years. Kim also is a veteran attorney with 33 years of experience in the public sector, including stints as deputy corporation counsel and deputy prosecuting attorney for the county and deputy attorney general for the state.
Spence and McLean, meanwhile, worked together as director and deputy director, respectively, of the Planning Department for nearly eight years, until Spence moved on to the housing department in June. He started as a staff planner with the county in 1992.
McLean then was promoted from deputy director to director and confirmed by the council. She’s also served on the state’s Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission and was a Capitol Hill research analyst before coming to Maui in 1994.
Goode, the Public Works director, has worked for the county for 15 years. He was deputy director of what was then the Department of Public Works and Waste Management and is a former member of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force.
Four others come from within their departments — Miyamoto, the deputy director of Environmental Management who has worked for the county since 1999; Sato, a former budget analyst who served as deputy finance director before leaving the post earlier this year to become the department’s accounting systems administrator; Peters, the parks maintenance superintendent who has 21 years of experience within the parks department; and Takamori, a current transportation system analyst who was previously the deputy director of the department.
One position yet to be announced is that of budget director. Baz, the managing director appointee, currently holds the position. Before that, he was the chief executive officer of Maui Economic Opportunity.
Pearson, the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, is the only appointee not currently employed by Maui County. However, he formerly served as deputy director of the Department of Water Supply and also handled the department’s capital improvement projects before taking the job with DLNR. Pearson also worked for Maui Land & Pineapple and is a registered engineer, a requirement of either the Water Supply director or deputy director.
Tegarden, meanwhile, will be leaving her position as the executive director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center to serve as Victorino’s chief of staff. She was previously the chief of protocol for Govs. Neil Abercrombie and David Ige and was the coordinator for the Office of Economic Development under Mayor Charmaine Tavares. Her successor at the veterans center has not been confirmed yet.
Because of a 2016 charter amendment, the council will need to approve the appointed directors for the first time. Members will have 60 days from the formal submission by the mayor to approve or deny the appointments. If the council does not take action within that time, the directors are automatically confirmed.
“There’s some surprises and not surprises,” Council Member-elect Tamara Paltin said Monday after Victorino’s announcement. “I’m really glad that he set up a process with interviews and had a panel to do things that way, and I’m also really glad that we get the chance to confirm all of the selections.”
Paltin, who was elected to the West Maui residency seat, said it’s now up to the council to “do our due diligence and see if it’s the right fit.” For example, Paltin said she’s worked well with Spence in the past but wanted to see “if he had the same kind of knowledge in the housing and human concerns field as he does with planning.”
She was glad to see some new faces on the list but also was surprised at the number of directors Victorino planned to keep on from the Arakawa administration.
“I can see the pros and cons to retaining people that are already up to speed on things,” Paltin said. “The question is, if you have the opportunity right now to start fresh, do you take it or not?”
Paltin said she’d be interested to see a list of other candidates who applied, “but at the same time, I can respect personnel confidentiality. Sometimes, it might be embarrassing to show the list for the person who wasn’t selected.”
Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who holds the Upcountry residency seat, said that “the biggest surprise, which I’m grateful for, is Jeff Pearson,” because of the knowledge and experience with water that he brings.
She said she’s also glad to see Sato on the list, because “she does her homework,” as well as Takamori, because he is “the new voice of the future” in a changing transportation field.
“A new thing for everybody is going through this approval process through council,” Sugimura said. “And I’m sure that’ll be an interesting process for everybody, and it’ll bring out a good way to scrutinize the best of the best.”
Victorino said that he knows “there will be some criticism” of his choices.
“I believe I’ve done the best I can,” he said. “Let time be the answer. Let time show us what we can do. And I believe these directors, along with myself and all of these deputy directors and the council, all of us will make Maui a better place.”
The only department heads not appointed by the mayor are the police and fire chiefs and the director of the Liquor Control Department, who are all appointed or removed by their respective commissions.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.