Search extended for permanent UH-Hilo chancellor

The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s search for a permanent chancellor has been pushed back.

The university initially planned to host on-campus visits with finalists this month and have a new chancellor start as early as fall semester.

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The search now is slated to wrap up by the end of 2018 with the new leader to start spring semester 2019 or “whatever works best for them,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said Tuesday.

“We’re leaving it a little open,” he said. “But we definitely want someone named by the end of the year if not sooner and ideally they’d be able to start in spring 2019.”

Meisenzahl said the delay stems from “a hiccup” in finalizing an initial agreement with a professional search firm to conduct the search process.

UH instead posted the position on its own — without a professional search firm — and “got a number of candidates who applied” but decided it wants to garner an even wider pool, Meisenzahl said. In order to do that, it was decided to try again to secure an agreement with a search firm — hoped to happen by early summer.

Applications will be accepted through the summer and on-campus visits with finalists are now slated for the fall.

“As we moved ahead with the process ourselves, advertising both nationally and locally and finalizing the options, we (eventually) decided in order to cast the widest possible net, to move forward and get that search firm on board,” Meisenzahl said, adding doing so also provides “a longer window for people to apply.”

“Bottom line is, we want to get the best person because this is arguably the most critical position (at UH-Hilo) in a very critical time,” Meisenzahl said.

Whoever is chosen will replace Donald Straney, who was chancellor until last summer when he was reassigned to another position within UH system leadership. The new chancellor will assume the post during a time when UH-Hilo is working to reverse multiple years of declining enrollment.

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Marcia Sakai was appointed interim chancellor last summer on a one-year assignment, initially. UH President David Lassner said in news release Tuesday he plans to make a recommendation to the Board of Regents to extend Sakai’s appointment until the new chancellor begins.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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