Hawaii County Mayor-elect Mitch Roth announced key members of his Cabinet Wednesday as he prepares to take office Dec. 7.
Roth is tapping Lee Lord, of Volcano, long-time business manager at the Prosecutor’s Office, as his managing director and second-in-command. Lord will oversee the county’s day-to-day operations and take on other jobs as needed, including serving as acting mayor in Roth’s absence.
“I’m elated with the team that we’ve selected,” Roth said. “My team and I talked to so many incredibly qualified applicants, but these are the best and the brightest, and we’ll be well prepared to take on the difficult challenges that lie ahead.”
Roth, who stressed during the campaign that he would assemble a cabinet representing the entire island, selected Captain Cook resident Bobby Command to be his deputy managing director and senior policy advisor. Command held the same position during the final year of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration.
“Our cabinet members will be working all over the island,” Roth said. “The desire of the people to have high-level staff on both sides of the island was loud and clear during the campaign and we intend to fulfill it.”
Roth also appointed Elizabeth A. Strance, of Kailua-Kona, as corporation counsel, the county’s top civil attorney, and has opted to hold onto Deanna Sako, of Keeau, as finance director. Maurice C. Messina, of Mountain View, will serve as the county’s director of the Department of Parks and Recreation while Scott Uehara of Hilo has been tapped as information technology (IT) director. Hilo resident Susan K. Kunz will serve as housing administrator.
Lord, who holds several degrees in business administration and a doctorate in psychology, has almost three decades of experience in the County of Hawaii and in a variety of nonprofit human services organizations. He was also a Division Manager in the Finance Department, executive director of Turning Point For Families Inc. and administrator for Child and Family Service.
Command, who will work out of the West Hawaii Civic Center, is a former executive assistant to the mayor and led the efforts to build the Ane Keohokalole Highway. A former journalist with more than 25 years of experience at West Hawaii Today, he was also deputy planning director for nearly three years. Born in Honolulu, Command has a degree in journalism from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Strance, a former Third Circuit Judge in Kona for a decade who currently is in private practice, is a graduate of Willamette University in Oregon where she earned a degree in public policy and political science. She received her law degree at Lewis and Clark College in Portland.
Sako, who has served as Finance Director under both Kenoi’s and outgoing Mayor Harry Kim’s administrations, is a graduate of Molokai High and Intermediate School and holds a degree in computer science and accounting from Wartburg College and a master’s in accounting science from the University of Illinois. She started her career with the county as an accountant in the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Messina is the current chief of staff in the Office of the Mayor and has been an “integral member of the county team that responded to the COVID-19 Crisis,” according to a press release. He started his career with the county in the prosecutor’s office and later served for two years as deputy director of Parks and Recreation. He holds a degree in criminal justice, is a certified paralegal and a combat veteran of the U.S. Navy.
Uehara has been the information systems analyst for the Hawaii Police Department since 2012. Prior to that he was an information technology specialist with the HFS Credit Union in Hilo, an IT specialist at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu with the U.S. Military, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and provided similar services to Kilauea Military Camp and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. He has a degree in computer science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Kunz is the current executive director of the Big Island Housing Foundation, where she manages six affordable projects comprising 251 units. Another veteran of the Kenoi Administration, Kunz was the administrator for the Office of Housing and Community Development as well as the deputy. She has served in other capacities at OHCD as well. She has a degree in business administration from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash.
Roth said he will announce directors for the departments of Planning, Research and Development, Public Works and Environmental Management in the coming days. Inauguration is set for Dec. 7.
Roth’s appointments to corporation counsel, department heads and managing director face confirmation by the incoming County Council in December.