HTA head faces challenge


POSTED: Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mike McCartney, former state senator and head of the Hawaii Democratic Party, will take over leadership of the Hawaii Tourism Authority on April 6.

;[Preview]  Mike McCartney Dubbed New HTA President

Mike McCartney will take over Rex Johnson's position as president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

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McCartney, 49, will replace former HTA President and Chief Executive Rex Johnson, who resigned last October following allegations that he had used his state laptop to forward porn as well as racist and sexist jokes to friends. Lloyd Unebasami, who has served as interim head of the agency since Johnson's resignation, will resume his role as HTA's chief administrative officer.

The HTA, which formally selected McCartney yesterday, was looking for a leader that was capable of providing strong guidance, building relationships between government, community and tourism and setting appropriate goals, said HTA Chairman Kelvin Bloom

“;We are certain that Mike will accomplish this and help lead the tourism industry to a more prosperous future,”; Bloom said.

McCartney, who currently serves as executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said he looks forward to the challenges ahead.

“;These are very difficult times for Hawaii and our visitor industry,”; said McCartney. “;It is our responsibility to all work together immediately to ensure the future success of Hawaii's leading industry.”;

While McCartney was unanimously endorsed by HTA board members, some in the community, including Rep. Barbara Marumoto, have been critical of his limited travel industry and business background.

McCartney's tourism experience is limited to his role as HTA chair from 2002 to 2004. However, he spent a decade as a state senator. He also served as the former president and CEO of PBS Hawaii and was former director of the state Department of Human Resource Development.

“;We need someone with experience in the Pacific, who is familiar with the players,”; Marumoto said earlier this week at an HTA briefing before the House Tourism Committee. “;Mike does not fill that bill. I feel he does not have the business experience. He does not have the travel experience. Lacking expertise in these three areas, he has a very tough job.”;

McCartney, who was born and raised in Hawaii, said his ties to Hawaii and varied professional background will serve him well in his new role.

“;I think it's healthy that I have worked outside of the visitor industry because tourism exists to create opportunities for Hawaii and the community,”; he said.