HILO — It was rough going for a while, but the County Council on Wednesday ultimately unanimously confirmed Roy Takemoto as Mayor Harry Kim’s second in command.
Takemoto, 65, was grilled by several council members who first declared themselves either in opposition or on the fence. After more than an hour, most seemed satisfied that he’d do as managing director.
Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter dabbed tears from her eyes after recounting how Takemoto, working in Kim’s first administration, helped Hamakua survive when the shuttering of the sugar industry devastated that area’s economy.
“I am forever grateful for that,” Poindexter said, adding that Takemoto’s subsequent actions on development in her district — especially canceling a meeting she set up with angry constituents — was “my great disappointment.”
“When I first heard you’re appointed, my vote is no and right now my vote is still no. I am hoping you can change my mind,” Poindexter said. “You’re running for mayor right now … Would I vote for you as mayor and can I trust that the community voices and especially through the community development district would that be honored?”
Takemoto was a private planning consultant prior to 2000 and after 2008. He has bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and environmental studies, a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, and a law degree from the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law.
He replaces Wil Okabe, who resigned last month.
Takemoto was raised near Wahiawa, Oahu, and in 1991 he quit his job working for a hotel developer, married a Hilo girl and moved to Hilo to be among his wife’s and mother’s families.
“In previous roles I have had, the lines of communication have been formally defined. … I recognize the role of managing director is a totally different role than the role I have had in the past. … I need to identify all the lines of partnership that are out there and how to leverage those lines in the best way,” he said, citing the council, the community, environmentalists, nonprofits and business as groups he will communicate with. “Openness is my policy, so whatever criticisms, suggestions, great ideas you have, I am very open to listening, even with people that I personally feel uncomfortable with.”
Poindexter came around after hearing Takemoto’s explanation and vow to better communicate with council members. Other council members praised him for his quiet and effective manner, his ability to calm a crowd, achieve consensus and solve problems.
“You are extremely dedicated to this county. … You are constantly working on behalf of Hawaii County and I’m grateful,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz. “This is a really big role. You are going to be leading Hawaii County if something happens to the mayor. I want to hear it from you that you are up to the task.”
Kierkiewicz and Poindexter weren’t the only council members to point out that the managing director serves as mayor when the mayor is absent or incapacitated.
“What we’re talking about is selecting our potential mayor and mayor replacement,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, one of the “on the fence” council members.
All the talk of Takemoto serving as acting mayor had the real mayor chuckling at the end of the meeting. Kim, 80, has had several heart attacks but hasn’t ruled out running for another four-year term next year.
“I’m going to show them all,” Kim said. “I don’t plan to die yet.”