Maui Council Confirms New Clerk Team Ahead of 2020 Mail-In Elections

February 7, 2020, 1:37 PM HST · Updated February 7, 2:08 PM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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Councilmember Tamara Paltin (left); newly confirmed County Clerk Kathy Kaohu (middle); and newly confirmed Deputy Clerk James Krueger (right). PC: Jen Mather (2.7.20)

With just six months before the Primary Elections, Maui has confirmed a new County Clerk team to head up the Department as the office embarks on a new elections-by-mail process in 2020.

The Maui County Council today confirmed Kathy Kaohu as County Clerk and James Krueger as Deputy County Clerk.  Kaohu currently serves an executive aide for Councilmember Tamara Paltin; and Krueger currently serves as a legislative analyst in the Office of Council Services.

Kaohu earned unanimous support, while Kreuger was voted in 8-1, with Councilmember Riki Hokama casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I think Mr. Krueger’s value for us at this time is staying in Council Services.  I can not emphasize how critical this year’s budget is going to be to the future of this county.  Mr. Krueger is one of the few that has some experience in Budget and Finance committee requirements,” said Hokama during Friday’s council meeting.

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“We can not have for a major committee on this council, to only work with brand new staff.  There needs to be someone that has some experience and understanding.  He has a few years.  For me, it takes at least four years before a staff [member] really understands the budget and finance committee,” said Hokama.  “Somebody’s got to do the work, the details, the balances of various accounts, different funds, obligations [and] debt service.  It is not an easy job. Mr. Kreuger for me is going to be essential to us on the council’s revisions and final adoption of the upcoming year’s budget.

“In a sense, I’m tooting Mr. Krueger’s value; but I see him as more important staying home with us in Council Services at this time,” said Hokama.

As for Kaohu, Hokama said she was a good choice.  “My vote for her was because I think we needed to show unification in this unique time and challenge.” “But,” he said, “I will not forsake the council’s ability to do its primary job.  We are the controllers of the money.  Our primary job is finance, and accounting for those finances.”

Hokama emphasized the need to have proper staffing to complete the budget requirements for final adoption.

Molokai Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez responded saying, “As member Hokama said, budget session is very important; but so is the election–especially since we are moving to a new process.”

“I trusted James to do the heavy work of the budget committee,” said Rawlins-Fernandez of Krueger who served as her analyst, “and I trust him to ensure that this transition to the new election’s all mail-in [process] will be successful.  He has that experience of doing community outreach and education, and that’s going to be a huge component in ensuring the success of this transition.”

“The budget committee is gearing up for a very successful budget session,” said Rawlins-Fernandez, noting that there is an analyst that could assist, who is currently working with fellow Councilmember Michael Molina.

“We do have an analyst that does have years of experience and would be able to be a huge asset to the EDB committee and to budget session, but it would likely require a sacrifice from a member to my right (a couple rights over),” she said.

Despite the news of potentially losing an analyst from his office, Councilmember Molina continued to support Krueger’s nomination saying, “Being young is both a blessing and a curse.  In his case it is a blessing,” said Molina, noting that Krueger “could potentially be a heart beat away.”

Both Kaohu and Krueger were recommended by Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee.

“We conducted an exhaustive search both externally and internally to find the best candidates to serve in these roles for the Office of the County Clerk going forward,” said Lee in a press release announcement last week.  “After interviews with several applicants, we ultimately decided to promote two internal candidates from within the legislative branch.”

David Raatz, the supervising legislative attorney for the Office of Council Services, has been serving as interim clerk since Feb. 1, 2020.

According to Lee, former Maui County Clerk Josiah Nishita and his deputy, Maggie Clark, vacated their posts at the Office of the County Clerk on Jan. 31.  Nishita fills the Deputy Managing Director vacancy in the Mayor’s administration created when Tyson Miyake was named Chief of Staff.  Miyake filled the vacancy created by Deidre Tegarden, who resigned from the post effective Dec. 15, to return to her former position as Executive Director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.

On Feb. 4, the Office of Council Services had posted a hiring notice for a legislative analyst, noting that recruitment will remain open until the post is filled.  The closing date is currently listed as Feb. 14, 2020.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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