*** Commentary *** Waiting With Bated Breath For Announcement of Mayor’s Department Head Pick(s)

Much to my dismay, there was no morning announcement from Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office regarding any of the still-to-be-filled county department head positions. Like any other reporter would do, I contacted the mayor’s public information officer (PIO) Hunter Bishop.
Since this is a commentary, I will say that Hunter and I had a good laugh that I am now calling HIM and asking HIM for information for MY blog. Talk about tables being turned. It was just last week that I was in the position of HIM calling ME for news about Council District 5. Now, I get to go back to being the pesky reporter and HE gets to collect/spin the news from the inside.
Mayor Billy has made a decision on one of the vacant department head positions, PIO Hunter said this morning. But, after some prodding and asking the question a few different ways to try and get him to slip up and reveal more information, Hunter was tight lipped.
He said he was working on a press release announcing the filled position, and he didn’t know yet how many eyes had to see it before it could be released to the public. He expects the press release to go out Thursday morning.
I’m especially curious to see who Mayor Billy picks to lead the Departments of Planning, Public Works, and Environmental Management.
Just for the sake of guessing, two names come to mind:
— Roy Takemoto, the former deputy planning director under Chris Yuen who went to work as Mayor Harry Kim’s executive assistant in charge of planning projects, could be tapped to lead Planning.
— Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, the former Hilo councilwoman who went on to be a Corporation Counsel attorney and then Environmental Management director, could be asked back to head Environmental Management or be asked to lead the Planning Department. (When she was councilwoman, she headed the Council’s planning committee.)
This morning, I was trying to rack my brain as to who Mayor Billy might think to ask to lead Environmental Management. It has to be someone who is ready to hit the ground running and pursue a solution to the unlined Hilo landfill, and hopefully someone progressive enough to think outside of the box for a long-term fix. This is, like Planning and Public Works, one of the most important decisions he will make. In my personal opinion, I do not think an incinerator is the answer. I have stated previously I think the answer is to recycle and reuse as much as possible and line one of the quarries to create a state-of-the-art “wet” landfill that captures and reuses methane and leachate.
As for Parks and Recreation, someone who popped in my head this morning while I was brushing my teeth was Mary Correa, currently a Complex Area Superintendent for the Department of Education (DOE). I didn’t know her until recently when we met trying to mitigate user/ownership issues regarding the Pahoa Ball Field. I was completely and totally impressed with her awareness of the fact that the public does not differentiate between the state and county governments. She had such a can-do attitude about trying to figure out how the county and state can work together to ensure the public doesn’t suffer while the “transition” field passes from the hands of the county to the state. Too often in government, there is a dismissive “no can” to addressing the public’s concerns, and the public has been really concerned about paying exboritant state DOE user fees for the T-ball and Little League games at Pahoa’s only lighted ball field. Mary Correa, in the meeting to address the exboritant fees and the county-state ownership issue, was so contrary to the norm that it was refreshing. She used to work at Ho’okena School in South Kona, so she has firsthand knowledge of the need for schools to fill the community’s recreation void in rural areas. This is such a crucial mindset for a county Parks and Recreation director to have. Just a shot in the dark, but maybe Mayor Billy will see the same quality in Mary Correa that I did.
As for the director of Public Works, I have NO IDEA who Mayor Billy will tap. Of all jobs, that one has to be pretty thankless, especially since that is the person West Hawaii Today editor Reed Flickinger seems to always rake over the coals for the fact that Kona’s roads are in such a state of disrepair and new road construction there moves as slow as, if not slower than, molasses.
I’m interested to read your comments on these yet-to-be-filled county leadership positions. Write away.

5 replies
  1. damon
    damon says:

    I too feel odd addressing Hunter as “Mr. Bishop” 😉

    It is good that we have open government. I can tell you one person who hasn’t received any calls for a job from Mr. Kenoi…. His initials are DT 😉

    Keep writing… I’m still “convulsing” from losing Bish’s Blog.

  2. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    ugh! Your predictions as probably all too close.
    Interesting: we have a smart young attorney for Mayor and a smart young attorney for Council Chair.
    Must we recirculate the same old faces?
    Aren’t there some smart, eager young professionals (e.g., engineer at Public Works?) around the island (or with ohana on the island and wanting to return?) with new ideas and fresh perspectives?

  3. Leimomi
    Leimomi says:

    Money is at the root of being unable to hire really REALLY good people for these important positions. County salaries just can’t compete with private sector. Esp. for Planning and Public Works. Their qualifications are very high and no highly qualified person will settle for such low pay.

    However, I am shocked that the Mayor didn’t get all this essentially done before he was sworn in. Wonder why not? These positions are vital — and need to be filled well. Maybe interims are the way to go for awhile, so the “right” one can be found for each.

    There are many people who haven’t received calls from the Mayor — that I personally know. 🙂

  4. hugh clark
    hugh clark says:

    Let’s ease up folks. Kenoi has been in office for three whole days. Historicaly, finding a chief engineer has been a challenge because of the relatively low salary range and the specific qualification requirements. There is more range in filling other vacancies.

    Tiff’s suggestion of Mary Correa is a good one. She comes a large community-minded family. Her engaging dad Jimmy is a nationally recognized volunteer baseball coach who spent much of his working life in P-R at Andrew’s gym.

    Her older brother, Jimmy, was police chief. Her younger brother, Tommy, is athletic director at Waiakea High. Andy coaches baseball at Kamehameha-Hawaii.

    I would guess the salary for P-R director is comparable with what she now makes with DOE. So it would not be for money she might accept the challenge of trying to meet increasing expectations with no greater resources.

    Mary is well respected in South Kona for the sharp turnaround at Hookena schoool during her tenure there.

    Though they had little privilege, the Correa kids worked hard and earned all of their positions with a steady uphill movement, no doubt because their mom insisted education came first.

    Finally, the Office of Environmental Management already has an effective leader who has made giant strides in cleaning up Hilo’s dump — removing unknown tons of metal waste that clogged that side of the operation for decades and ending the smoking piles of green waste.

    Again resources are minimal but BJL-Todd is very much the can-do person whose office is always open to receive complaints. I know from experience as a two of three times a week sometimes cranky dump hauler. I have witnessed enormous change out there.

    We should give more than a handful of days for Kenoi to piece together his team. Hasty decisions can be regretted and it is harder to fire someone than it is to find the right person at the outset.

  5. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    BJLT is a disaster at DEM. The civil service staff in Solid Waste Division are the ones who have been doing the work on Hilo land fill — despite the wasted space in the Director’s office. She talks a lot, but just repeats what somebody else said a year previous.
    DEM is definitely in need of a good leader.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *