With inauguration days away, Maui County Mayor-elect Rick Bissen busy building his team

In a matter of days, Bissen will be sworn into office here as Maui County's new leader.
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:39 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:52 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In six days, Mayor-elect Rick Bissen will be sworn into office as Maui County’s new leader.

And as of late, Bissen’s been busy building his team.

He said he’s gone through hundreds of applicants and made the decision on his cabinet. There will be some familiar faces around 200 South High Street in Wailuku — but mostly fresh faces.

“A lot of anticipation right now,” Bissen said. “I’m looking forward to working with our team, working with our new directors.”

His first appointment was Kekuhaupio “Keku” Akana as Managing Director. Akana retired as deputy police chief in 2006 after a 25-year career with MPD. Bissen and Akana worked together back in the 1980s when Bissen was a prosecutor.

“I knew his work ethic. I knew how really intelligent he is. I know how hardworking he is. So, his ethics and work ethic combined made him a great choice,” said Bissen.

He also appointed Leo Caires as Chief of Staff.

Mahina Martin is the new Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.

And Gerry Dameron as Chief Innovation Officer — a new position.

“There are 19 cities that have innovation officers or innovation departments. So, we’re gonna be the 20th city in the United States to do this,” he said. “We’re at that time where this is what’s needed … climate change issues, sustainability, food security … we wanna see what we can do to make a difference in that area.”

The following people will keep their current positions:

  • Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin
  • Finance Director Scott Teruya
  • Public Works Director Jordan Molin
  • Agriculture Director Rogerene “Kali” Arce
  • Housing and Human Concerns Director Lori Tsuhako

Meanwhile, Malama Minn will be the new Parks and Recreation Director and Victoria Hamilton Takayesu is the new head of Corporation Counsel.

“With mayor-elect at the helm, we are going to install leadership and trust I feel that perhaps it spends somewhat lacking,” Takayesu said.

Takayesu added that there is an “issue with transparency” that she believes Bissen will address.

“I just feel like give us a chance and the public is gonna see an amazing direction that we’re going in,” Takayesu said.

A few other directors have not been announced yet, including for the water and planning departments.

The public is invited to attend mayor-elect Rick Bissen’s inauguration ceremony.

It will be held on Monday, Jan. 2 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Doors open at 4 p.m.

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