HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rick Blangiardi was sworn in Saturday as Honolulu’s 15th mayor, taking over the reins at city hall as Oahu grapples with ongoing health and economic crises.
“This is not going to be an easy road. This is going to be a lot of work,” Blangiardi said, in remarks to his cabinet members after taking the oath of office. “We’ve made no small plans and we know the challenges ahead of us will be as great as anyone has ever faced. I look forward to what we’re going to create.”
The swearing-in ceremony, closed to the public, kicked off just before 1:30 p.m. in Honolulu Hale’s courtyard. Attendees wore masks and speakers addressed the socially distanced audience behind plexiglass.
Blangiardi’s cabinet was also sworn in Saturday along with five new and four returning City Council members. Newly-elected to the council: Andria Tupola, Esther Kiaaina, Calvin Say, Radiant Cordero and Augie Tulba.
“We’re ready to go,” Tupola said. “We’re so excited to work with the new administration.”
Before the City Council inauguration at Honolulu Hale, Blangiardi briefly addressed the group, saying he was looking forward to working with them to tackle challenges facing Oahu.
“We go into office at a time when I don’t think the responsibilities could be even greater than they are, the challenges any steeper than they are,” Blangiardi told the council. “I really am honored to be here.”
Earlier this week, Blangiardi announced picks for his cabinet and said his administration would hit the ground running to tackle a long list of new and old problems facing the city.
“The expectation for people who’ve voted us into office is to fix the problems,” Blangiardi told Hawaii News Now, in discussing those selected for his team.
“And that’s what I’m going to look for and that’s my expectation with the people who are there.”
22 of his cabinet members were sworn in on Saturday, but there are still some positions to fill like a corporate counsel.
“That’s a very critical hire for us and we want to make sure we get the right person,” said Blangiardi.
The new mayor plans to meet with department heads on Sunday and says the goal for the new leadership is to keep things very fluid.
“We’re going to start orienting ourselves as quickly as possible to challenges and things that have to be handled,” said Blangiardi. “A lot of things were happening with the city, the hand off comes to us and we’re going pick that up as quickly as we can.”
On COVID-19, Blangiardi has not committed to sticking with the city’s tiered reopening strategy, which some businesses have criticized as overly restrictive.
Under the system, Oahu is now in Tier 2, which keeps gatherings to no more than five people, includes capacity limits for some businesses and keeps other businesses — including bars — closed.
But Blangiardi is also taking over the city as Oahu sees an uptick in new COVID-19 infections, which health experts say may represent a post-holiday bump.
This story will be updated.