Richard Borreca

On Politics


Lingle is armed with
more management skills
than her predecessors

For the most part, Hawaii's governors haven't started their jobs as professional managers. Four of our six elected governors were attorneys before assuming the governor's office. Lawyers can be leaders, but the scope of their management skills need not be that of a CEO.

Hawaii, however, now has a new governor who is a manager. Linda Lingle spent eight years running Maui. So one of the differences between her and previous governors is that she has not only chaired meetings, but has been responsible for the yearly outcome of those meetings.

Lingle uses that to her advantage, and in conversation frequently recalls how she handled problems while mayor of Maui County. In her new state role, she can refer back to what worked and what didn't work in forging a county government.

During her inaugural speech, Lingle proudly noted that among her many firsts upon becoming governor was the largely unnoticed "first mayor to become governor," title.

That distinction makes her different from our other chief executives, who could only rely on the experiences of the lieutenant governor's office for management background.

Richard Pratt, director of the University of Hawaii's public administration program and author of "Hawaii Government and Politics," says that the knowledge government leaders have of the organization, how it works and how it can be improved, is a critical but not often emphasized trait.

"What is needed is a mental map of the organizational system," Pratt says.

Once installed in office, Pratt warns it is easy for government executives to be overtaken by day-to-day operations; planning turns into crisis management.

While they don't have time for on-the-job training, government leaders also can't rely on the characteristics or skills learned in private organizations because the jobs are just too different, Pratt argues.

"There are important differences that will frustrate people who have been in the private sector. Those frustrations come from not being able to do the same things in the same way," Pratt said.

Happily, that is a good thing. If our government is to be about democracy and openness, then its managers also must be able to operate fluently in an open society, not a closed corporation.

So far, Pratt says, Lingle is getting high marks for her organized way of approaching the governorship.

"One thing I like, she is talking about the resources of the people in government, rather than assuming they are the problem. Many times, it is the people in the different agencies who are the most frustrated," Pratt said.

"I also like her deliberate sense of organizational life," Pratt says.

Good beginnings are only remembered if they lead to a good work product, but so far, the Lingle administration appears headed in the right direction.

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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