HAWAII AT WORK
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Briana Solidum works in the Office of the Governor for events related to the historic Washington Place. On Wednesday, Solidum stood in what was once Queen Lili'uokalani's music parlor.
Stepping into history at Washington Place
Briana Solidum helps aides to the governor arrange events and public tours of one of the state's most famous homes
Title: Administrative assistant
Job: Helps coordinate special events and public tours at Washington Place
Briana Solidum graduated from college and stepped right into the governor's office. Well, not exactly the governor's office; rather, the Office of the Governor, where she works for two of Gov. Linda Lingle's aides, staging special events and conducting public tours at the governor's official residence, Washington Place. Well, not exactly where the governor actually lives, but rather the historic, former official governor's residence on the same property, across from the state Capitol, that is now a museum. Solidum applies in her job the skills she learned at University of Hawaii, where she earned a bachelor's degree in communication. A graduate also of Kamehameha Schools, she now is working on a master's degree at Hawaii Pacific University. Solidum, 25, is single and lives in Kailua.
Question: I was told your title is events coordinator for Washington Place.
Answer: My title is administrative assistant, in the Office of the Governor. I work under the special assistant to the governor, Glenn Shigeta, both on the museum side (of Washington Place) and her private residence. And then I also work under her curator -- the governor's curator -- Corinne Chun, who's the curator of the museum side (of Washington Place).
Q: What kind of events do they have at Washington Place?
A: There's two parts for events. The Washington Place Foundation, a nonprofit organization, as well as the Governor's office, makes the historic home available for events, so nonprofit and for-profit organizations have the ability to have an event here for a user fee. The user fee then goes to the Washington Place Foundation, which in essence then goes back into the restoration and preservation of the property. So that's one part of events.
The second part is the state and governor's events. So basically state agencies can host their functions here, or if Gov. Lingle has, say, a dignitary that comes into town, she would officially host them here at the historic house.
Q: But not at her place.
A: No -- no, no, no. That's private. The new home that is on the property was built with private funding provided by the Washington Place Foundation. Gov. Lingle has the distinction to be the first governor to live in the new house, but she continues to host officially in the historic house. The last occupants of the historic house were the Cayetanos.
Q: How often do they have such events at Washington Place?
A: You know, it just depends. There can be seasons where we have events maybe three or four times a week, to seasons where we have just nothing. I would say peak seasons during the year are summertime, then there's a lag in the fall, and then it picks up in the holiday season because we not only have events here, we also make this home available to the public for tours.
So there are just so many facets to our office. There's the events planning side, and then there's the museum and curatorial side.
Q: And what exactly is your role in making these events come together?
A: In the area of events, I assist the governor's special assistant in anything from logistical planning to the actual execution of the event on the event date. So we are present for all events.
Then on the museum curatorial side, I work with our volunteer base, which includes our docents. So I schedule public tours as well as organizational tours, and I also schedule the docents for these tours.
Then the last part of my area, the curatorial museum part, is if I am unable to find docents for any given tours, the Washington Place staff, including myself, will have to step in and do the tours ourselves. So we also have knowledge about the occupants of the home --about the queen and that sort of thing.
Q: How many docents are there?
A: Right now we have a base of about 12 or so docents.
Q: What kind of people are they?
A: Most of them are docents that came over from Iolani Palace. They work here as well as there, and they share their time between both organizations, so they're very knowledgeable about Hawaiian culture and they share their knowledge with us.
In addition, we also have a volunteer base that's called our "host and hostess program," and they are volunteers that basically host during our events. They assist us as far as watching over the artifacts and hosting the guests that come to the events, directing people to the bathroom or whatever, and we have about 30 of those hosts and hostesses.
Q: Do you get to hang out much with the governor?
A: Um ... (laughter) ... yeah. It all depends. If she does have a function here, then, of course, we do work closely with her on property. But it all depends on whether it's her event or whether it's an outsider event.
Q: Will you lose your job when she loses hers?
A: Yes, we are an appointed position.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Briana Solidum joined the Office of the Governor right out of college as an assistant to the governor's aides who oversee Washington Place.
How long have you been administrative assistant for Washington Place?
A: I've been the administrative assistant with Gov. Lingle since she got into office, I believe in January '03.
Q: What kind of background prepared you to take on such a job?
A: Well, I was a student when I actually applied for her communications division. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out, but fortunately, I was interviewed for this administrative assistant position and then that's when the doors opened up here and I had the wonderful opportunity of being a part of this great place. It's such a privilege to be here. There's so much history to the home, beginning with Queen Lili'uokalani.
And really, this is something I love about my job. Everyday there is something new. In working with the curator and various organizations and the docents, we learn new history every day. If the walls of this place could talk, it would be amazing.
Q: What are your favorite kinds of events to work on?
A: I would say the public open houses, in which the Washington Place Foundation and the Governor's Office open up the property -- I would say maybe four times a year -- to the public, free of charge, whether it's celebrating Easter with our spring promenade or Christmas in celebrating the first Christmas ever in Hawaii. Mary Dominis was the individual basically responsible for introducing Christmas to Hawaii.
Q: And who was that?
A: Mary Dominis is the woman whose husband built the home of Washington Place, and the mother-in-law of Queen Lili'uokalani. The queen married John Dominis, her son.
Q: The guy who founded the restaurant?
A: No. (Laughter) It's a long, convoluted story. There's a relationship there, but as far as opening the restaurant, no. (Laughter)
The most recent open house we had was in celebration of Queen Lili'uokalani's birthday. We celebrate her birthday every Sept. 2, and we had the privilege of hearing the Royal Hawaiian Band, and the great thing is they used to play at Washington Place during the queen's time, so that was the historical connection there.
Q: You must meet a lot of important or famous people on a fairly regular basis.
A: I would not say on a regular basis. Definitely when the dignitaries or VIPS come into town, and we get the call that the governor is going to officially host them here at Washington Place. That's when we have the opportunity to meet them.
Q: Is the job hectic or stressful?
A: Um ... no. (Laughter) I would say it's not stressful. It definitely keeps you on your toes.
As I mentioned, when we have those high peak seasons, when we have many events going on, there's never a dull moment.