Rodenhurst leaves county government. ‘The mayor and I decided to part ways,’ DPW director says


Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst on Monday became the first top director in Mayor Mitch Roth’s Cabinet to leave county government.

Rodenhurst, reached by phone Tuesday morning, said, “as of yesterday, the mayor and I decided to part ways.”


“Overall my hope is that DPW will continue holding people accountable … improve the building permit process … and capitalize on federal funds while maintaining buildings, roads and bridges for the success of Hawaii County,” Rodenhurst said.

During his approximately 18-month tenure, Rodenhurst, 32, helped shepherd new building codes for the county, tried to work out the glitches in a long-in-the-works paperless building permit system, tried to advance overdue road projects such as Puna access roads, Waikoloa Road and Kalanianaole Avenue and became embroiled in a lawsuit over the administration’s decision to close Waipi‘o Valley Road.

Deputy Director Merrick Nishimoto had left just four months into Roth’s term, with the administration citing a difference in management style between the deputy and the director.

Rodenhurst, a business-backed candidate who had run unsuccessfully in 2020 against Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, had been confirmed by a slim 5-4 County Council majority, with most West Hawaii council members voting against his confirmation.

He said he doesn’t have an immediate employment prospect, but he’s “looking for what opportunity I can find to serve the community.”

“At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had,” he said.

County Managing Director Lee Lord had notified other county officials by email Monday evening:

“This email is to inform you that Ikaika Rodenhurst is no longer the Director of Public Works as of 4:30 today, Monday, June 13th. Due to employment laws I cannot share any more information about the separation. I can share that (Deputy Director) Steven Pause will be the point of contact until such time that the position is filled, please support Steven and the DPW staff to ensure continuity of service and leadership. Should you have any questions or concerns that Steven cannot address, please contact myself or Mitch.”

Lord did not immediately return a phone message, but his office sent a press release midmorning Tuesday, stating additional changes include the appointment of Julann Sonomura as acting building division chief and Neal Tanaka as acting deputy building chief.

“We would like to thank Ikaika for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors, as well as welcome both Julann and Neal to their new positions,” said Roth in the press release. “Our administration remains committed to helping our community thrive and succeed, and through that, we will continue to work diligently to address the issues surrounding our building permitting process. We understand that our folks rely on a consistent flow of permits to keep food on their tables and roofs over their heads, and we are dedicated to ensuring that they have every opportunity to do just that.”

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