Tuesday, October 13, 2015         

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Apo taking Disney job

The Council chairman's departure in November will trigger a special election

By B.J. Reyes


The City Council will have a new look and a new leader in 2011.

Soon after voters decide the four new members of the Council in the Nov. 2 general election, Council Chairman Todd Apo's resignation will become effective, leaving the remaining members to call a special election for a new member and organize behind a new leader.

Apo announced yesterday his intention to leave office Nov. 8 to take a job as public affairs manager in Hawaii for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Apo will be in charge of media relations as well as community and government affairs for the Disney resort, Aulani, which is scheduled to open at Ko Olina next year.

"This wasn't a position that could be waited for," Apo said. "A lot of the work that needs to be done is preparing for that opening and seeing through the first phases of that opening."

With such a high turnover on the Council, it is hard to say who might emerge as the new chairman, said political analyst Dan Boylan.

"Who's to say when you've got five new people?" said Boylan, a retired history professor at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. "Apo's loss, along with the four already going out, just makes it very problematic."

Remaining Council members include Ikaika Anderson, Romy Cachola, Nestor Garcia and Ann Kobayashi.

"It'll be interesting and challenging, but we'll do the best that we can for the taxpayers," Kobayashi said.

Because there is more than a year left in Apo's term, the remaining Council members would have to call for a special election to occur no more than 60 days after the vacancy.

The special election likely would be conducted by an all-mail ballot, similar to special elections held in April and August last year to fill vacancies left by the deaths of Barbara Marshall and Duke Bainum, respectively.

According to City Clerk Bernice Mau, those elections cost the city $225,000 for Marshall's District 3 seat, which was won by Anderson; and about $170,000 for Bainum's District 5 seat, won by Kobayashi. The clerk's office did not have an estimate on the cost to fill Apo's seat, but Mau said the district covering Ewa, the Waianae Coast and Kapolei has about 45,000 registered voters, about 2,000 fewer than District 5.

Apo won a five-person race for the seat in 2004 with 46 percent of the vote, and won re-election in 2008 against a single challenger, Garry P. Smith, with 67 percent.

State Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) had planned to run for Apo's Council seat in 2012 when his term expires. She said she does not want to think about whether she would run in a special election for the Council until after the November general election for her state House seat.

Her Democratic opponent, Jason Bradshaw, is political director of the AFL-CIO.

"I'm going to do everything possible, including giving up my career goals, to make sure this guy doesn't win," Pine said.

If Pine were to win re-election in the House and then decide to step down to run for the Council, the governor would appoint her replacement in the House from among three recommendations from the state GOP.

Apo said he announced his plans yesterday to allow time for a transition period, giving potential candidates time to study the issues and get their campaigns up to speed and also allow time to work with the new mayoral administration, which will be decided in a special election on Sept. 18.

"We'll have time with that new administration to work on their transition into the city, and obviously, come January there will be a large new group of Council members," Apo said.

"I didn't want this to be an all-of-a-sudden announcement and then sort of disappear on what's going on," he added. "I don't want to create any instability in a time when all these elections are going on."

Apo, an attorney and former vice president of corporate operations for Ko Olina Resort & Marina, would not rule out a return to public office in the future, adding that he plans to remain active and work on issues affecting the community.

During his six years in office, serving as chairman the last two years, he was a strong supporter of rail and quality-of-life issues affecting the Waianae Coast, including attempts to close Waimanalo Gulch landfill and solid-waste alternatives such as trash shipping.

On whether there were any ethical concerns over Apo's Council work affecting his future employer, Boylan said that comes with the territory.

"I think there's a long, long, long, long history of people who have served in (office) who have then gone to work for the private sector," Boylan said. "Of course, it's a small town, and if you move from politics into any business, there's a likelihood or a possibility that somewhere along the line you voted for something that helped that place out."

Apo said he reached the decision to join Disney last week. He declined to discuss his contract, salary or other terms of his new job.

"I haven't felt any sense of abandonment (to the district)," he said. "I'm going to still be in the community. I think Disney is going to be an important player in West Oahu, the City and County of Honolulu and our entire state."

Star-Advertiser staff writer Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.


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