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Apo pau with Council

The chairman begins his PR position with Disney soon

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 2:25 a.m. HST, Nov 9, 2010

This story has been corrected.

Todd Apo will preside over the City Council as its chairman for the last time this morning and likely will turn the gavel over to Councilman Nestor Garcia to wield until five new Council members take office in January.

As he packed up his Council office yesterday, Apo said he could start his new job this afternoon as public affairs manager in Hawaii for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts -- only hours after resigning the Council seat he has held for the past six years.

"It's both exciting and a little sad," Apo said. "I've had a real, actual fun time serving for these six years. ... I have personally grown a lot in having this role. I consider it a huge privilege to finish my Council career as Council chair."

In his new job that begins this afternoon -- tomorrow morning at the latest -- Apo will work in Disney's downtown office and be in charge of media relations and community and government affairs for the Disney resort, Aulani, scheduled to open next year at Ko Olina.

The new position means that Apo can have even more influence than he did as City Council chairman, he said.

"I really do feel like in the long run I'll be able to have a larger and broader impact on the future," he said. "It's not all government. The private sector has to be involved in shaping our future."

Apo's side job as an NCAA Division 1 basketball referee served him well as Council chairman, and Garcia might rely on Apo's example, Garcia said yesterday.

"When everything is happening around you, he's able to keep his head and make the right call," Garcia said. "That's a good skill set to have when you're the chairman of the City Council. I may blow the whistle myself."

The nine-member City Council will include newly elected members Ernie Martin (Mililani Mauka, the North Shore and parts of Windward Oahu), Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo (Downtown, Nuuanu, Kalihi Valley), Stanley Chang (Hawaii Kai, Diamond Head, Waikiki), Breene Harimoto (Aiea, Pearl City, Waipio) and whomever voters in Apo's District 1 elect to replace him in a special election that will conclude Dec. 29. Apo's district covers Ewa, Ewa Beach, Honouliuli, West Loch, Kapolei, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina and the Leeward Coast.

Garcia said he hopes to be voted permanent chairman after the new members join the board Jan. 3.

"I'm excited by the new energy and enthusiasm," he said.

As he has learned as budget chairman, the Council will have to focus on providing critical, basic city services, Garcia said.

"We all agree that we may have to make due with what we have and should focus on the basics that the city provides," Garcia said. "My focus was always on public safety as the first priority, followed by basic services that people have come to rely on, whether it's making sure your calls to 911 get responded to or making sure your potholes are filled and your garbage is picked up."

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said she plans to vote today for Garcia, her former colleague in the Legislature, to serve as interim Council chairman.

"He can bring us all together," Kobayashi said. "He has a lot of experience. He knows the process. He knows how to move legislation along. He's very articulate and has a great sense of humor."

Kobayashi also said yesterday that she appreciates the role that Apo played.

"He's done a really good job for the people of our city," she said. "He's tried to rein in expenditures without raising taxes. He always had this compassion for those with low income and those struggling to make it. We all wish him luck."



» Breene Harimoto will represent City Council District 8 (Aiea, Pearl City, Waipio) after winning an uncontested primary election, giving the City Council five new members on Jan. 3. An article on Page B1 Monday said the Council would have four new members.

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