We’re in the business of providing public service

Our County

Excellent customer service endures as an underlying principle of business success. It was true when I managed Zales at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. It was true when I managed McDonald’s restaurants and insurance companies. Now, customer service is a core value for me as mayor.

Starbucks founder and former Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz famously said: “We’re not in the coffee business serving people; we’re in the people business serving coffee.” Starbucks’ successful emphasis on customer service speaks for itself. The company operates more than 29,000 stores in 78 markets and hauled in $24.72 billion in revenue in 2018, more than twice its revenue in 2011. It’s interesting to note that Schultz, reportedly worth about $3.3 billion, is exploring a bid for the White House in 2020.

So why, you might ask, have I been talking about customer service as your mayor?

First of all, I’m not discounting the fine work that our dedicated county employees deliver day in and out, often without thanks or recognition. Sometimes we take for granted that clean water flows out of faucets; that police officers and firefighters respond quickly in emergencies; and that our parks and roadways are well maintained. These are just a few examples of the fine services that Maui County employees provide to the people of Maui County.

What I have been doing in the early days of my administration is to strongly emphasize customer service to my staff and appointed directors and deputy directors, and I believe they’ve heard me loud and clear. A strong commitment to public service was one of the important factors in my appointments for directors and deputy directors to county departments. I’ve made it clear I will hold them accountable.

Last week, the Maui County Council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee, chaired by Council Member Mike Molina, began its review of my appointees. The committee members continued their work this week. Dozens of people have taken time from their busy lives to share their thoughts with council members. They want Maui County to have the best leadership possible in these challenging times, and I agree.

Before taking the oath of office Jan. 2, I convened a Selection Committee of citizens to independently scrutinize applicants for directors, deputy directors and other positions. Committee members were looking for people committed to public service, and I believe we’ve assembled a very strong team to keep Maui no ka oi.

I have faith in the integrity of our County Council members, and I respect their role. I have no doubt the council’s review will be fair and thorough. But, in the end, I think they will agree that my nominees have the right combination of experience to provide continuity of public services and innovation to be open to new ideas and better ways of doing things.

To put a twist on Schultz’s famous quotation: We in Maui County government are not in the business of providing services to the public; we’re in the business of providing public service.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.