Next mayor will have 25 days to assemble staff

It’s a job description that even the most ambitious chief executive officer might shy away from:

Assemble from a limited pool of qualified and available local talent an executive staff including a several-member office force, engineer, attorney, director of finance, personnel director, public information officer, economic development leader, fire chief, and other positions to make up a core of leaders for the next four years.

And put that all together in 25 days.

The job description continues: Must be able to deal with potentially combative board of directors, and manage carryover department heads selected by appointed community volunteers chosen by former chief executive officer.

The next mayor, elected on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will have only until Monday, Dec. 2 to get his appointees in place before inauguration ceremonies at the Lihu’e Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

Both candidates, Kauai County Council Chair Ron Kouchi and Vice Chair Bryan Baptiste, said they will accept resumes for the various positions one of them will be called on to fill in a very short period of time after the election.

According to the Kauai County Charter, the mayor appoints the:

– Administrative assistant, who is acting mayor in the mayor’s absence. Currently, Wallace Rezentes, Sr. is Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s administrative assistant;

– County attorney, who must be a licensed attorney in good standing with the Hawaii Supreme Court who has practiced in Hawai’i for at least three years. This position requires approval of the County Council (that potentially combative board of directors referred to earlier). The county attorney according to the charter has the power to appoint deputy county attorneys, who serve at his or her whim, and “necessary staff as shall be authorized by the council and within the appropriation made therefor.” Hartwell Blake is the current county attorney;

– Director of finance, who must have five years of training and experience in fiscal management or accounting, at least three of which have been in a responsible administrative capacity. Eugene Jimenez is the current director of finance;

– Fire chief, who must possess at least five years training and experience in fire control in private industry or government, three of which must have been in an administrative capacity. David Sproat is the current fire chief;

– County engineer, who must be a registered engineer with five years of training and experience, three years of which must have been in a responsible administrative capacity. Ian Costa, an architect by trade, is the deputy county engineer, and acting county engineer after Cesar Portugal left the appointed position for a civil-service position as head of the county Department of Public Works’ Division of Engineering.

As a result of the establishment of certain county laws, the next mayor will also select a director of the Offices of Community Assistance, a position currently held by Matilda “Mattie” Yoshioka. The county executives on housing, transportation and elderly affairs serve under contract, and report directly to the director of the Offices of Community Assistance.

Upwards of 30 people can be appointed or retained by the next mayor, including the private secretaries of various department heads.

In addition, the new mayor will inherit:

– The county clerk, Peter Nakamura, who is appointed and may be removed by the council;

– Planning Director Dee Crowell, appointed by the Planning Commission;

– Eric Honma, Liquor Control Commission director, appointed by that commission;

– Ernie Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Department of Water, appointed by the Board of Water Supply;

– Malcolm Fernandez, county personnel director, appointed by the Civil Service Commission;

– Police Chief George Freitas, appointed by the Police Commission.

The new mayor will have the ability to appoint members of various boards and commissions, usually with council concurrence, as current terms of members of boards and commissions end.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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