Richard Borreca

On Politics


Sunday, November 10, 2002

Transition period tests
Lingle’s skills

Oddly enough, in the euphoria after Tuesday's smashing GOP victory for Linda Lingle, there also are dangers.

From winning in November to taking office in December, a minefield of political and structural traps is waiting to blast the incoming administration. That's not my assessment, it comes from the senior state government types who worked on the transitions of Governors Cayetano, Waihee and Ariyoshi.

Those dangers, however, must have been quickly spotted by Lingle, who started the planning process two months ago. Quietly and with a planning group separate from her campaign team, Lingle had a group put the same attention to detail in her transition as she had in planning the coordinated get-out-the-vote campaign that insured her big victory.

As one former state bureaucrat told me, "If you don't keep on it and pay attention, it will catch up, and if things get chao- tic it will be a bad reflection."

Another former state official warned, "If you don't take care of it on the front end, someone will pay for it on the back end."

The former state advisers also warned that while the transition team is scrambling to put the right people in the right positions, it must be accomplished under the critical eyes of news media and the Legislature.

"There will be a report card due very shortly," one former official remarked.

With all that in mind, Lingle asked her former campaign adviser and past Hawaii Bar Association president Randy Roth to develop and implement a transition plan.

Roth quickly found that one of the differences between Hawaii's highly centralized state government and states that have prepared written transition guides was that much of the raw numbers about Hawaii government are hidden or simply unknown.

How much is being spent, how many employees are there and who is in an appointed position are all questions that Roth had trouble answering.

"But since the election, I must say that Governor Cayetano and his administration have been terrific and given us anything we asked for," Roth said.

The basic plan is to work in waves of three appointments or positions, Roth said. So after getting advice from state experts such as state auditor Marion Higa, Roth's team is either singling out possible cabinet appointees or putting together specialized teams of experts to look for appointees.

One area that usually gives a new governor trouble is the Department of Health because it is so large and runs across diverse fields such as public health, mental hospitals, environmental protection and county hospital funding. Both Waihee and Lingle set up separate search committees to find people to run the DOH.

Now, however, with the new concerns about public safety and terrorism, the position of adjutant general (head of the state Department of Defense) is another key position that has to be filled, Roth said.

The last call on all jobs will be up to Lingle, who, observers say, appears to have the "emotional intelligence" of a leader.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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