Ige has just 2 cabinet members on first day; says low pay makes it hard to recruit

Published: Dec. 2, 2014 at 1:53 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2014 at 10:45 AM HST
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Mike McCartney
Mike McCartney

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige had just two members of his cabinet in place as he took office Monday, far fewer than his predecessor, fellow Democrat Neil Abercrombie, had on board when he was sworn in four years ago.

Ige has named Chief of Staff Mike McCartney and Ford Fuchigami as director of the state Department of Transportation, but 15 other state departments await permanent directors. When Abercrombie was inaugurated in December of 2010, he had at least 11 directors and several deputies in place on his first day on the job.

"We are focused on finding and putting together the best team that we can regardless of their participation in the campaign," Ige told reporters at his first news conference as governor Monday afternoon.

Ige is holding over a number of Abercrombie directors and deputies to fill-in until he finds new leaders for those departments.

"We are focused on ensuring that nothing drops through the cracks. That we have leaders in place to work through the transition until we can announce and put in place the cabinet-level administrators in the new administration," Ige said.

Ige said some people have turned down jobs in his administration because private sector salaries are higher than department director jobs.

"It has been a challenge with the salaries the way they are. As you all know, private sector pays significantly more," Ige said.

McCartney took a nearly 50 percent pay cut to become chief of staff which pays $143,000 a year compared to his former job as president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority where his salary was $270,000.

The governor's attorney general and budget director are paid the same as the chief of staff -- $143,000 – meaning top private lawyers and financial executives would most likely have to take a pay cut to work for Ige.

Salaries for other directors, such as those who oversee the health, public safety and tax departments, are $136,000 a year.

There are 41 director and deputy positions in 16 state departments, plus numerous other political appointees including the governor's policy, media and neighbor island staff as well as numerous executive assistants in a variety of departments and agencies.

Ige said he hopes to announce some new cabinet members in the next few days.

Ige also pledged openness with the media and said he plans to hold routine news conferences, perhaps every week. But in order to do that, he'll need to hire a communications director and a press secretary first. In the interim, a couple of former press staffers from Abercrombie's office are filling in temporarily.

Ige, who chaired the State Senate Finance Committee for the past four years, said one of his first priorities will be crafting a budget that keeps the state within its means. His budget proposal is due to the legislature in just three weeks, on Dec. 22.

Ige took the oath of office Monday in a State Capitol rotunda ceremony, becoming the eighth person to serve as governor since statehood in 1959.

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