LIHUE — Kauai County Councilman Mason Chock will present a preliminary report this morning on the findings thus far of a subcommittee formed in June to study the possibility of switching to a county manager system of government.
The object of the report is to give councilmembers ample time to read information gathered by the subcommittee as well as an opportunity to make requests for additional research before the subcommittee presents to the council its final conclusions on the issue sometime in December or January.
The subcommittee, whose membership includes Chock as well as Finance Committee Chairman Arryl Kaneshiro and Intergovernmental Committee Chairman KipuKai Kuali’i, is charged with examining the various forms of county manager system governance, studying the costs and benefits of each and determining the feasibility of implementing one of those systems on Kauai.
Kauai County operates under a mayor-council system in which councilmembers are elected to serve as the county’s legislative body, and a mayor is independently elected to serve as the county’s chief executive.
Under a county manager system, the role of mayor would become largely ceremonial or could be eliminated, and the council would hire a professional manager to carry out the executive functions of running government operations.
The idea to study the county manager system was proposed by Chock, who said he believes residents may be potentially better served under that model.
“I think what it really comes down to is what’s going to fit best and what can we all agree upon and get the community to agree to, too,” Chock said. “Such a change would require a huge amount of support to move forward. I’m not sure Kauai’s ready for it. But I will say, from my research, I’m impressed by the professionalism of the county manager system.”
Chock stressed that no decision has been made yet about whether this is the best way to proceed. But he said he thinks a county manager system has the potential benefit of bringing increased efficiency to government.
Councilman Gary Hooser said he’s neutral on the issue for now, but he’s intrigued by some of the touted benefits of the county manager model.
“I’m attracted to the idea and attracted to the county manager model, but there are lots of variations of it and lots of details to be worked out and questions to be answered before I decide whether or not I want to support it or not,” Hooser said. “It has the potential to take a lot of the politics out of management of the county. More accountability, less politics.”
If the council does recommend moving forward with a plan to change the County Charter, it would still need to go on the ballot for a public vote.
Chock said the plan is not a result of dissatisfaction with Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. or his administration, and should not be viewed as a power grab. If approved by voters, the switch would likely not take effect until after the end of the mayor’s term.
He is scheduled to give his presentation to the Committee of the Whole at the Historic County Building. The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m.