Richard Velazquez has been promoted to general manager of AAA Hawaii. He returned to Hawaii recently from training in California. He held up a AAA sign outside the organization's office on Nimitz Highway on Thursday.

AAA chief eager to be
good corporate citizen

Richard Velazquez

» Age: 47
» Promoted to general manager of AAA Hawaii.
» Started his career with AAA on the mainland in 1979.
» Came to Hawaii in 1996 and became district manager in 1997. » Left Hawaii two years ago to attend AAA's Management Institute, a course for the company's top management.
» Served as the Grossmont La Mesa, Calif., AAA office manager.

Question: I understand you recently met with new mayor Mufi Hannemann. What was on the agenda?

Answer: AAA wants to be a good corporate citizen. We're exploring participation in Walkwise Honolulu. That's with the City and County and Department of Transportation and it's involving safety awareness with senior citizens. So we're exploring that. It's a statewide pedestrian safety campaign for all ages including seniors.

Q: Is AAA regularly involved in public projects?

A: Well, part of the club is to participate, be active in public affairs and when the city or Transportation Department or Governor's Office ... if somebody comes to ask us for some assistance we try to provide that. We have a number of publications that we provide at no charge to schools. We also provide weekend gas reports telling motorists the price of gasoline. In addition to that we also try to offer some tips on how to conserve gas and save money.

Q: What else does the job involve?

A: When people think of AAA they think of emergency road service, safety tips, we're also a travel agency. We're exceeding 100,000 members. That's very robust growth for us. We're looking for that continue. The average growth is between 5 to 6 percent a year for the past six years that I recall. At some point we will look forward to investigating an additional location. Maybe it's Oahu, maybe it's on the neighbor islands. These are all positive things that we have to look forward to.

Q: Even with the Internet, people still come to you for maps?

A: All the time. You can go and have access on the Internet and recall that information, but we have age groups that want specific information. What is the peak travel period vs. nonpeak that I want to drive. Nothing beats that personal attention and service that AAA strives for.

Q: What was your first job with AAA?

A: I started with AAA as a receptionist, greeting our members coming in, driving them to the travel agency or emergency road service area. ... Then I was promoted into what we call a counselor position, showing people how to read a road map, booking a hotel reservation, help with the trip planning process. That's really where the fun is because many of these trips you've been on and you can share with the members and the dos and don'ts.

Q: What brought you to Hawaii?

A: Actually I had vacationed and been out here several times and I was selected to help our office locate and it worked out quite well. Actually, I was on a temporary assignment that turned into a long-term assignment, which I loved. The opportunity came to go to the mainland, which I did for a couple years and opportunity knocked on the door again, and as they say, he's back.

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