KAILUA-KONA — Brenda Carreira is set to become the latest in a line of administrators to try and repair Hawaii County’s beleaguered Mass Transit Agency since Mayor Harry Kim assumed office in 2016.
Kim announced in a press release Tuesday that Carreira will replace Maria “Sole” Aranguiz, who made public in early October her plans to resign after only eight months on the job.
Carreira, who will officially step into the position on Nov. 1, listed getting departmental vehicles back on the road or purchasing new ones to meet islandwide demand as among her top priorities — all under the umbrella of one encompassing goal.
“Restoring the community’s trust in us,” she said of her early aspiration as administrator. “I’m looking forward to talking with them.”
Carreira spoke extensively about improved communication with not only passengers but also the staff she’s inheriting from Aranguiz.
Doing so, she said, will allow her to get a handle on the strengths, shortcomings and needs of a transit system plagued by a lack of functional inventory, trouble keeping up with scheduled bus routes and cash-handling practices so poorly managed that a legislative auditor was unable to say definitively whether the books were correct.
Beyond that, an early West Hawaii Today report noted strained relationships between Aranguiz and several disgruntled employees, which may have played a role in both the agency’s continued lack of effectiveness and Aranguiz’s ultimate departure.
Aranquiz is returning to the job of chief of systems planning and forecasting for the California Department of Transportation, the position she vacated before accepting an offer to work in Hawaii County.
“I want that open communication and to be able to talk,” said Carreira of her soon-to-be staff. “So we can all work together for the (people of Hawaii County).”
She added she’s already got one foot in the door when it comes to relationship building throughout the agency, as her former positions have allowed her to work with and come to know private vendors and drivers with whom she’ll interact regularly in her new capacity.
Carreira has worked as operations manager for Roberts Hawaii Tours since 2012, and served as Kona operations manager for Polynesian Adventures before that, beginning in 2005.
She graduated in 1984 from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii and St. Joseph’s School in Hilo before serving as the County of Hawaii Deputy Prosecuting Attorney.
“Ms. Carreira has a solid grounding in mass transit in the private sector, and has also worked closely with our current Mass Transit staff,” Kim said in a press release.
Carreira was a finalist for the administrator position before Kim ultimately appointed her predecessor, Aranguiz. This time, the county reached out to Carreira.
Before Aranguiz, Tiffany Kai ran the county’s mass transit system. She has since taken over the position of paratransit coordinator.
Retired Marine Curtis Sharpe assumed the helm on an interim basis between Kai’s departure and the arrival of Aranguiz, but wasn’t a candidate for the full-time job as he was short on necessary public transit experience.
Carreira said she’s begun studying the master plan but admitted she’s got significant on-the-job learning in front of her. She added the mission of turning the transit system around is somewhat daunting, but said she isn’t intimidated by a task that’s proven vexing to her predecessors.
“This is a challenging position,” Kim said, “and I believe that Ms. Carreira will be up to it.”