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Top elections officials approved

County Council OKs Kaohu, Krueger for Clerk’s Office

Kathy Kaohu and James G. Kreuger

WAILUKU — The Maui County Council on Friday voted to approve nominees for the top two elections posts in the county — Kathy Kaohu as county clerk and James G. Krueger as deputy clerk.

The council appointments come with the primary election six months away on Aug. 8 and implementation of an all-mail election. The general election is on Nov. 3.

Kaohu will earn $105,000 annually and Krueger, $94,000.

Council members felt an urgency to act quickly to fill the vacancies left by the resignations of former Clerk Josiah Nishita and former Deputy Clerk Maggie Clark. Nishita, who accepted a post as deputy managing director, and Clark, who departed for a position in Mayor Michael Victorino’s budget office, left the County Clerk’s Office for their new jobs at the end of January.

Office of Council Services Supervising Legislative Attorney David Raatz has been serving as interim clerk.

Kaohu has been a senior executive aide for Council Member Tamara Paltin. She has worked as an aide for four other council members. Her elections background includes serving as an election volunteer since 1993 and an elections trainer for 10 years.

Krueger received a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University in 2017. After college, he joined the Office of Council Services as a legislative analyst and has been assigned to various committees, including most recently the Economic Development and Budget Committee.

Kaohu’s vote was unanimous, with multiple public testifiers and council members advocating for Kaohu. They noted her integrity and knowledge, and reputation as a hard worker and quick learner.

Testifier Sean Lester questioned her elections and supervisory experience and the fact that she only has an associate’s degree. Lester noted that Nishita, as deputy to the late County Clerk Danny Mateo, learned the job under Mateo’s tutelage before becoming clerk.

Council Member Riki Hokama also raised questions about her elections experience. He asked if any of the 11 clerk applicants had elections experience. Only Kaohu and another candidate had such experience, council Chairwoman Lee and Council Member Kelly King said.

Kaohu told council members that she learned by “ma ka hana ka ike,” or by doing, and accepts the challenge of serving as county clerk wholeheartedly.

Hokama also had concerns about Krueger’s appointment, noting that his departure would hurt the council’s budget committee. He said Krueger was one of the few analysts who has budget experience.

Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, chairwoman of the budget committee, said there is a plan in place to seek another legislative analyst with budget experience to be transferred to her committee. She was saddened to see Krueger go.

Council members who worked with Krueger on their committees called him a hard worker, easy to work with, a critical thinker and trustworthy.

The vote to appoint Krueger was 8 to 1 with Hokama against.

Lee said there was a selection committee, which she was not on, that included Office of Council Services staff; the County Clerk’s Office also was asked for input on every applicant.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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