Savoring her gubanatorial victory with running mate James "Duke" Aiona Jr.

The New Boss

Beginning a new era
The leader of the state
Governor Lingle's Inaugural address

By Richard Borreca

Starting today, state bureaucrats can expect to find a boss who says "no" to trip and equipment requests; parents of public school students can expect to be firmly lectured on responsibility; and local businesses will find a new buddy on the state Capitol's top floor.

Asked to describe what her new state government will be like, Republican Linda Lingle immediately starts ticking off the attributes.

June 4, 1953: Born Linda Cutter in St. Louis.
1965: Moved to Southern California.
1967: Started high school at University High School in West Los Angeles.

1971: Graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif.
1973: Married Charles Lingle; divorced in 1975.
1975: Graduated from California State University at Northridge.

1975: Moved to Hawaii.
1975: Named public information officer for the Hawaii Teamsters and Hotel Workers; served to 1976.
1976: Moved to Molokai and founded the Molokai Free Press. 1980: Elected to Maui County Council.
1985: Married William Crockett; divorced 1997.

1990: Elected mayor of Maui County.
1994: Re-elected Maui mayor.
1998: Unsuccessful run for governor.
1999: Elected Hawaii Republican Party chairwoman.
Nov. 5, 2002: Elected governor with James "Duke" Aiona Jr. as lieutenant governor.

It will be pro-business, she said. It will be more open than any other state government, and it will draw from both senior civil service executives and those without any government experience.

"I have a good ability to get that mixture," Lingle said in an interview last week.

While government veterans and Democrats have warned that Lingle's power of positive thinking will be no match for the state's projected budget deficit, the 49-year old former mayor said she is already tracking down more money.

If the state needs to trim about $500 million to run a balanced budget and still launch the tax cuts she promised, Lingle said she has already spotted $200 million of that total.

"I think the times call for someone like me, a fiscal conservative," Lingle said, recalling that while she was Maui mayor, people would complain, "'You are acting like this is your money.' I take that as a compliment."

To find that first $200 million, Lingle said she would ask that money now in state special funds be put back into the general fund and that money set aside for interest on construction projects that are not being built also be put back into the general fund.

"They authorized the bonds -- they never sold the bonds, but they did authorize the debt service (the interest to pay for the bonds), so there are millions sitting there," Lingle said.

"When you are highly motivated, you have a better chance to succeed. We have to balance the budget, and we have to take into account my priorities," Lingle said.

To help, the first Cabinet officer named was her former Maui budget director, Georgina Kawamura, as state budget director. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Even Kawamura acknowledges that she has "concerns about the short-term and long-term deficits that are facing our state."

So, Lingle said, she and her Cabinet will be looking for business to create lots more jobs in Hawaii.

"We will tend to be people who are respectful of the business community, and we are going to be very focused on creating jobs," she promised.

Lingle also wants to start work on improvements to the state public school system. Acknowledging that with an elected school board that hires the school superintendent, it is difficult for any governor to effectively move education reform, Lingle said she will start talking up change in the system.

"In the end, the governor is going to be held responsible, whether you have the authority or you don't," she said. "The governor will be held responsible, and I will try to impress that on the school board and the superintendent: You may be independent, but I will be a bigger factor."

Parents can also expect to get an earful.

"I also have the ability to talk to parents about their responsibilities," Lingle said. "It goes beyond dropping their children off by the curb every morning. Yes, teachers have them for so many hours every day, but the children don't belong to the teachers, they belong to you."

The new governor said she does feel it is her responsibility to make sure the schools are safe, and will immediately work on that.

"No student should be afraid to go to school, and today they are afraid to go into the bathroom or afraid of people selling drugs. I am the governor, and I have an obligation to the public that their children are safe when they are in a Hawaii public school," she said.

Lingle said the Legislature may have to change state laws, or she may adapt administrative rules, but she wants "principals and teachers to have the authority to remove a student who is a danger to other students."

Finally, Lingle said she wants the state government to be more open.

Mentioning her new senior policy advisor, UH law professor Randy Roth, Lingle said she wants to create an "openness that hasn't existed before."

"Randy and I talked about OIP (Office of Information Practices, which interprets state open-record laws) and how we are going to improve it," Lingle said.

"I have a strong background as a journalist," said Lingle, who started a small newspaper on Molokai. "Journalists have a right to this information, and unless it is going to jeopardize a lawsuit that is going to hurt the taxpayers, give it to them.

"The whole idea is openness, opening the government up. ... I want a government that all people feel they have access to," she said.

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