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VIDEO: Mateo and Pontanilla to Join Arakawa Administration

December 25, 2012, 3:36 PM HST · Updated December 26, 10:59 AM
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Danny Mateo (left) and Joe Pontanilla (right). File photos by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Below is text from an interview conducted with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa on Dec. 24, as he discusses the council transition in the new year.

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According to Arakawa, his administration will hire both the exiting Council Chair Danny Mateo of Molokai, and the exiting Vice Chair Joe Pontanilla of Kahului.

AA: We’re losing the chairman and vice chairman of the council–Danny Mateo (chairman), and Joe Pontanilla (vice chair). Because the council has a maximum of 10 years and then you term out, the council is very well suited to have continuous flow. 

The new chair-elect is Gladys Baisa and (vice chair elect is) Bob Carroll–they’re already reorganizing the council for next term. Every two years we go through this reorganization process, so it’s constantly occurring. There will be very little change in the council’s ability to do work.  The personalities will change, and we’ll hopefully have a very progressive council that’s looking to make Maui a really good place. 

The major challenges that they’re going to have are going to be trying to work through the community plan process, and the budget and the challenges of creating new facilities to replace a lot of the old facilities that we have here on Maui. 

I believe that the two new council members–Stacy Helm-Crivello will be able to represent Molokai very well, and Don Guzman will be able represent Kahului very well. Both are highly qualified, both have very good credentials, and both have a long experience in the community as community advocates.  So, I’m looking forward to a very good council.

The (outgoing) council chair and vice chair are both going to be moving into the administration. We are hiring them to help us. It’s been my experience–and I’ve done this a lot–that if you have qualified people, you try and use their talents as much as possible. 

I believe Council Chair Mateo has a lot of talent. He was elected again for five terms by the people; and Joe Pontanilla–same thing–five terms. They’re very popular with the community and they’ve served the community well, otherwise, they’d never have been reelected.  The other thing is that it’s good experience for them to be able to come in and see what it’s like to work with the rule and the laws that you pass, and see how the inner workings of government actually function on a day-to-day basis.

I have had tremendous experience getting former council members and legislators into our administration, and being able to then focus their abilities–Mele Carroll, J. Kalani English, we had Gil Keith-Agaran, Alice Lee who was former Council Chair, and just any number of people that were in positions. 

The other thing that it allows me to do is, it allows me to be able to prove to the community that we’re very non-partisan in how we work. We have Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, all people that are interested in working within government combining their skills to be able to progress and move Maui forward.

This has been one of the great experiments and examples of how cooperative people can be regardless of having different political parties. With us, we have probably–because the state tends to be more Democrat–we probably have more Democratic representation; but we do have very balanced representation. 

We’ll continue to work very hard for the people. When we can ignore party politics, and we can just work for the community, you can see the results. We’re able to accomplish a lot because they have the desire to be public servants, otherwise they’d never have run for office to begin with. So I’m very happy that they’ve consented to join our administration.

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MN: Have you determined in what capacity they will serve, what their titles will be, and what department they will work for?

AA: The positions that I put them in are always movable–so we’ll start Danny Mateo off as an executive assistant. He’ll be helping to try and reorganize a lot of the parks department area. Joe Pontanilla will be in the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to try to help manage some of the grants that we have; and to be able to do analysis of how well the grant program applicants are working. I think these are areas that they are very strong, and will have the ability to cope very well with; and they’ll be very helpful to the community as well.

MN: Did you have to expand positions to make those available, or were they already vacant, or did you just shift people around?

AA: We do a little bit of everything. We have people that are retiring, we have people that are moving around because of the retirement system, we have people leaving, and we’ve worked with the attrition program and had some vacancies.

Overall, our staff will grow maybe one position at most; but very little growth. The salaries that we have, pretty much balance out. We’re seeing shifts, but not real growth in government.

The ability for us to be able to work with council, also expands and state Legislature also expands–so we were hiring someone to be a lobbyist at the state Legislature, we may have one of our EAs go there instead. So, we’re trying to cut back in a lot of areas.

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