By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Gov. Neil Abercrombie will select one of two candidates announced Monday to represent the Big Island on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents for a five-year term beginning in July.
All told, there are three seats on the board whose current terms will expire on June 30, including one representing Hawaii County, one for Maui County, and one at-large member.
In a press release issued Monday afternoon, the UH Regents Candidate Advisory Council announced that Hawaii County’s current representative on the board, Barry T. Mizuno, is up for consideration, as well as Kailua-Kona attorney Roy A. Visousek III.
Mizuno, a Hilo energy consultant and former county managing director, was selected by the governor to fulfill an interim appointment to the Board of Regents in August 2011, taking a seat left vacant by Harvey Tajiri, who resigned in February 2010.
On Monday, Mizuno said that should the governor select him for a new, full term, he would focus on completing the construction of the University System’s new Palamanui campus in West Hawaii, as well as follow through on the construction of a new building for UH-Hilo’s College of Pharmacy.
“It’s vitally important that we build that campus right now,” he said of Palamanui. “We do currently have a presence and offer classes there, however we do need to provide more for our students of West Hawaii.”
Mizuno said that the project hit a speed bump when bids from contractors came in higher than anticipated.
“We don’t have enough funds (for the project),” he said. “We’re in the process right now of examining how we can transfer funds. There are some left over revenue bonds we could use. All of that is up for discussion, at this point.”
As for the Hilo campus, the College of Pharmacy’s need for a building has taken top billing on the board’s and the governor’s budget lists.
“The governor is very much in line with the feelings of the regents that the school of pharmacy is very important to the entire community. We need to not jeopardize its accreditation, and we need to get that pharmacy building constructed,” he said. “Hopefully, that will pass the Legislature this year. That’s a biggie, and something we all should be fighting for.”
Mizuno has been in the geothermal power business and served as a private energy consultant for 20 years. In 2006, he retired from Puna Geothermal Venture to form BTM LLC, a private energy consulting firm. He fully retired at the end of 2012.
In addition to his stint as the county’s managing director, he also served as finance director. A certified public accountant, Mizuno has lived on Hawaii Island since 1983, when he became the chief financial officer treasurer and controller for Hamakua Sugar Company Inc.
Vitousek, a Waimea resident, is a partner in the Big Island offices of Cades Schutte LLP, which he opened in 1987. He specializes in land use, litigation, employment, and hospital law. Among his clients is Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which operates Hilo Medical Center and Kona Community Hospital, among other health providers across the state.
Vitousek said Monday that it was affiliation with HHSC and his experience and knowledge gained from that association that led him to volunteer his name for consideration for the Board of Regents post.
“The things I was working on … they were very similar in nature to the structure of UH, and I’ve been working on a wide range of issues over the last 15 years,” he said.
In representing the Big Isle, Vitousek said he would work to highlight the island’s remarkable ecosystems as educational opportunities.
“It’s something that is really important to me,” he said. “The Big Isle is a premiere laboratory to study the evolution of ecosystems, and the effects of human involvement with the physical world. It’s just so climatically diverse. … And, the amazing ability of the people to sustain populations they had with no outside inputs. It’s something that deserves thoughtful study.”
Vitousek said that he, too, would make a priority of overseeing the growth of the campuses on both sides of Hawaii Island.
“UH’s West Hawaii campus is clearly important to this community, as well as the continued growth of the UH-Hilo campus,” he said. “My perception, as a member of the community is that it (UH-Hilo) is growing in tremendously positive directions.”
The announcement of the BOR candidates came within days of the introduction of a bill package in the state Legislature that would, among other things, affect how regents are selected. The bills, introduced by Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, are in response to recommendations floated by a Senate panel that investigated the so-called “Stevie Wonder blunder,” in which more than $200,000 was lost in a fundraiser concert scam.
Mizuno said Monday afternoon that he felt the Board of Regents had responded well to the highly controversial issue.
“I feel confident there have been enough improvements made, that something like that won’t happen again,” he said.
Vitousek said he was not yet up to speed on how the bills might impact the Board of Regents, but added that he had been impressed with the board.
“It seems to me that the regents on the board currently are dedicated, competent and ethical individuals,” he said. “What I’m most concerned about looking at is what information gets to the regents, since that helps them evaluate issues and make the decisions that have to be made.”
There are a total of 15 regents, who serve as unpaid volunteers, responsible for setting the direction of the UH System, which comprises three universities and seven community colleges, including UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College. The board has exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management annd operation of the university. UH President MRC Greenwood answers directly to the Board of Regents.
All regents must first be nominated by the Regents Candidate Advisory Council, appointed by the governor, and then confirmed by the Legislature.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.