Roth starts projects, looks to build Cabinet as he gears up to transition into mayor’s post

  • ROTH

After a decisive win late Tuesday in his bid for mayor, Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth hit the ground running Wednesday, preparing to close one county office while he begins assembling a Cabinet so he’ll be ready to take over the next one Dec. 7.

Roth won with 50,370 total votes to political newcomer Ikaika Marzo’s 35,887, giving him 58.4% of the vote, according to the last printout released shortly before 4 a.m. Wednesday.

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He said he’ll continue running the office of the prosecutor — the only other countywide elected post — while he helps train Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, who won in the primary, to take over.

Roth also is working on two priorities: a sustainability summit to draw ideas and suggestions from the community, and an economic plan for COVID-19 recovery, with help from the island’s many chambers of commerce.

“We’re looking forward to changing the philosophy of government to creating a government that allows people to thrive and succeed,” Roth said Wednesday, quoting a mantra of his campaign.

The sustainability conference will likely be in webinar format because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said. But Roth has high hopes for it.

“This gives us a chance to go back and make the recommendations that come from the community actualities instead of pie in the sky ideas,” he said.

First comes the Cabinet.

So far, the only hire he’s decided on is Tammylyn Kaniho, his executive secretary, who will be making the transition with him across the street to the County Building in Hilo. There might be one or two others from his office as well, he said.

Tops among the many positions that serve at the pleasure of the mayor is the managing director, the mayor’s right hand, who oversees the county’s day-to-day operations and takes on other jobs as needed. There’s also a deputy managing director, four or five executive assistants, a corporation counsel — the county’s top civil lawyer — and a slew of department heads and deputies. The corporation counsel, department chiefs and managing director face County Council confirmation.

Roth said he hasn’t ruled out existing department heads but he’s not spoken to them because of ethics rules that might have given the appearance of campaigning on county property. People interested in positions need to send resumes to mitch.roth@hawaiicounty.gov, he said.

“I am accepting resumes and this is part of the process I’m really looking forward to,” he said. “They need to be sent as soon as possible as we only have a month to do things.”

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Mayor Harry Kim, who lost his re-election bid in the primary, said Tuesday that his administration is working on a transition plan to help the new mayor get started. He pledged that his department heads will work with the mayor-elect and his Cabinet.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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