Honolulu Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi said Wednesday that he has his sights set on a second-in-command and is putting together a transition group to help him pick others in his cabinet.
In an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser less than 12 hours after opponent Keith Amemiya conceded the election, Blangiardi said he was awaiting a final answer from a person for whom he has tapped to be his managing director to help lead his administrative effort.
He declined to give the man’s name, citing the need to finalize the hire.
Blangiardi won’t be sworn-in to replace current Mayor Kirk Caldwell until Jan. 2, but he made it clear he’s focused on forming a cabinet.
“Job one is the team we’re going to put together,” Blangiardi said. “So yes, that is the first and highest priority.”
A “really good group of people” are being asked to take part in a transition team to evaluate potential hires, he said. He expects to make the names of transition team members public in the next day or so.
The longtime television executive said he’d like an assessment from outgoing Mayor Kirk Caldwell about his current appointees to evaluate whether he wants to ask some of them to stay on at Honolulu Hale.
“I know for a fact there are some really talented people, some hard-working people, who are very committed to this city,” Blangiardi said.
Caldwell on Tuesday night dropped by unannounced at the evening’s headquarters for both Blangiardi and Amemiya as they awaited the first election results.
Blangiardi said he and Caldwell spoke briefly about a transition, dealing with the pandemic, the ongoing problems with the $10 billion-plus rail project and the city budget. The two have promised to speak more, as soon as Wednesday afternoon, about those and other issues, he said.
Caldwell, at a press briefing Wednesday, said each of his department heads have been asked to prepare transition books for Blangiardi’s transition team. Office space has been set aside for the incoming staff, he said.
“We’re going to work to make it as smooth a transition as possible,” Caldwell said.
Among the biggest concerns raised leading up to the election is whether Blangiardi, with his decades as a private sector executive, will be able to adapt successfully to a bureaucratic government culture where people he must work with closely may not share the same ideas or priorities.
The people who’ve worked with him would dispute that he is a top-down person who refuses to listen to those with differing views, he said. “I’m just the opposite of that” and he is willing to adapt his positions based on circumstances and need, he said. “To me, it’s always been best idea wins.”
Given the formidable challenges raised by the pandemic, he said, Honolulu needs people of all stripes who are willing to help bring the city out of its current straits.
“We all need to come together for the common good, for the greater good,” the mayor-elect said. “We’re stepping into a very, very difficult set of circumstances that were already in place if you will,” he said, citing homelessness, rail, affordable housing and putting up other necessary infrastructure. All of those issues “have been amplified as a result of COVID,” he said.
“When you’re working in that kind of environment, I don’t think that’s politics as usual,” he said. “We have a lot of stuff on the line that directly impacts people … I would hope that we can really come together in understanding what it is we need to do to mitigate this stuff.”