LIHUE — County Managing Director Gary Heu announced Monday that he will be retiring effective Oct. 31 after serving more than a decade as the county’s second-in-command and a brief stint as mayor.
“When I first joined the county, my intention was to stay only four years,” he said in a news release. “Looking back over the past 11 years, I can honestly say that it’s been an honor and a privilege to serve under three mayors and make a small contribution to our island community.”
Kauai County Council Chair Jay Furfaro said he and Heu have worked together for a long time. Furfaro was first elected to the council in 2002, but prior to that, they served on the Kauai Planning Commission for three years.
“I think he has been a highly professional individual who has a sincere desire to make contributions, which he has, to the county because he has a very deep love and aloha for Kauai,” Furfaro said.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said in a news release that Heu will be missed by the administration, the council and the community.
“Gary has always brought such a high level of professionalism and aloha to his work,” Carvalho said. “I’ve always been able to depend on him for sound advice and great leadership.”
Furfaro said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Councilman Mel Rapozo were also elected to the council in the same year that Heu was hired by the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste.
“He’s been a conduit for the council, that’s for sure,” said Furfaro, adding that Heu developed many relationships with a number of council members over the years.
Furfaro, however, said he was not expecting Heu’s departure and was “a little bit surprised” with the decision.
He said that even though Heu will be hard to replace, he gave the administration more than ample time to research and recruit the right person for his position, which is a “very key position in the administration.”
Carvalho said he would like to have a new managing director named prior to Heu’s departure.
“It takes a person with a unique skill set to be effective in this very challenging position, but I’m confident we’ll find a suitable candidate,” he said.
Earlier this year, county Finance Director Wally Rezentes Jr. quit after 14 years on the job.
“Steve Hunt stepped in and filled that position very well,” Furfaro said of the current finance director.
Hunt and Heu worked through a difficult county budget earlier this year, but because of their efforts, the council and the administration “got to the right place for the right reasons,” Furfaro said.
Heu first accepted the position in 2002, under Baptiste’s administration.
Following the Baptiste’s death in June 2008, halfway through his second term, Heu served as acting mayor for two weeks until then-Council Chair Kaipo Asing was sworn in to the county’s top executive post following a special election.
After winning the 2008 general election, Carvalho re-appointed Heu in December of that year. Heu’s initial title was administrative assistant, and in the last couple years his title was changed to managing director.
Heu, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and the University of Colorado, Boulder, spent 22 years with Hawaiian Tel/Verizon Hawaii before retiring as the island manager in the fall of 2002.
He said being asked to join county government in 2002 by Baptiste came as a complete surprise, but it was such a unique opportunity that he decided to put his personal plans on hold.
He said now it’s time to place family first and put some long-delayed plans back on track.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org