By NANCY COOK LAUER
Mayor Billy Kenoi on Tuesday solidified his administration’s West Hawaii presence by naming Deputy Managing Director Wally Lau his new managing director, replacing retiring Managing Director Bill Takaba.
Lau will be based at his current office in the West Hawaii Civic Center. Randy Kurohara, currently director of the Department of Research and Development, will become deputy managing director, manning the office in Hilo.
“We’re very proud of the last four years and very excited about the next,” said Kenoi, whose strength among West Hawaii voters helped him narrowly defeat former Mayor Harry Kim in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Kenoi said his administration is actively seeking new blood for his second term. Individuals interested in applying for positions as department directors, deputy directors or division heads should send resumes naming their departments of interest to the Mayor’s Office, he said.
“We’ll continue to solicit interest,” Kenoi said. “We want people to apply.”
Top cabinet staff who will continue into Kenoi’s second term include Finance Director Nancy Crawford, Public Works Director Warren Lee and Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, who lost a bid for prosecuting attorney by a paper-thin margin. Deputy Finance Director Deanna Sako and Deputy Public Works Director Brandon Gonzalez also will stay on.
Kenoi said acting Environmental Management Director Dora Beck has agreed to stay on while the county looks for a more permanent director. The troubled department has had three directors in as many years and faces big challenges with the planned closure of the Hilo landfill and the likely construction of a waste-to-energy garbage incinerator.
Former Executive Assistant Kevin Dayton, a longtime newspaper reporter who left the Kenoi administration last year to resume his journalism career at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, will be returning as executive assistant, Kenoi said. Executive Assistant Bobby Command, in West Hawaii, will continue in his position.
Lau, 64, became Kenoi’s deputy managing director four years ago after serving as executive director of the Neighborhood Place in Kona. He said the West Hawaii Civic Center will become the new base of operations for the managing director’s office, but he will continue his current practice of weekly or twice-weekly trips to Hilo.
Lau said he will stress cooperation and teamwork. He said he and Kurohara complement each other and will work closely together, albeit on different sides of the island.
“It’s really about teamwork,” Lau said. “How we can get everybody to work together toward the same vision.”
Kurohara, 50, echoed that sentiment.
“Clearly our responsibilities will be shared,” Kurohara said. “Our job is to support, help the entire administration be successful in what they do, to provide oversight and supply the resources that they need.”
Takaba, 65, is retiring Nov. 30 after serving seven mayors over almost 39 years with the county.
“I felt honored and privileged to serve with such an intelligent and honest leader with so much integrity,” Kenoi said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Takaba began working in the county Office of Aging in 1974 and then served as finance director, first under former Mayor Lorraine Inouye and later under Kim. Kenoi said Takaba has agreed to advise him in a nonpaying role during the transition.
Takaba said he’s ready for a breather before looking at other opportunities. He joked that he’s ready to watch Saturday morning cartoons with the grandchildren.
“It’s been very interesting and challenging at the same time,” Takaba said.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.