The Maui County Mayor’s Office isn’t the only part of the Kalana O Maui Building that’s had to deal with big management changes these last few weeks. On Dec. 8, 2017, Maui County Clerk Danny Mateo sent notice to Maui County Council Chair Mike White that he would retire, MauiTime has learned. But then 19 days later, Mateo rescinded that retirement request.
“I felt at the time that retirement was the right thing to do,” Mateo told me during a Jan. 4 phone conversation. That retirement was to be effective on the last day of 2017.
“I would like to thank you for all the opportunities for professional and personal development that you have provided me for the last 4 years,” Mateo wrote in his Dec. 8 letter to Maui County Council Chair Mike White. “I have enjoyed the many challenges, established a strong working relationship with my colleagues from our sister Counties, and developed lifelong friendships that will definitely be cherished. I will long remember and appreciate the support provided me during my tenure as the County Clerk. My journey throughout the years has been incredible and memorable.”
In his letter, Mateo urged White to appoint current Deputy Clerk Josiah Nishita to County Clerk. But then a “whole lot of people” talked to him after his first retirement notice and asked him to reconsider, Mateo told me. Mateo said he found their arguments convincing, because on Dec. 27 he sent a new letter to White, rescinding his Dec. 8 letter. His reason for staying was simple: there’s too much uncertainty going on in the county government now.
“During the past few weeks, a few unanticipated events have occurred which has led me to reconsider my previous notice of intent,” Mateo wrote to White on Dec. 27. “In the Office of Council Services, key staff departures have led to an increased reliance upon my Office for assistance in day-to-day operations and future planning. Such assistance required takes focus away from the challenges and planning that the Office of the County Clerk will need to deal with.”
Mateo’s unretirement letter also mentioned the huge responsibilities shouldered by the County Clerk’s office in the upcoming 2018 election.
“After taking a look at the situation we’re in with such a small staff, it made sense to finish the term and complete the election,” Mateo told me. “The upcoming election is going to be intense, I believe.”
Mateo’s Dec. 27 letter explained why.
“As you are aware, 2018 will be an important step forward in increasing accessibility and participation from Maui County’s residents in the electoral process,” Mateo wrote to White. “Implementation of same day voter registration, new Statewide voter registration system, and shift in operational facilities will pose key challenges to my Office.”
Mateo told me that 5,000 people voted early at the County Clerk’s office in the last election, and that the whole process will move to the Wailuku Community Center for the 2018 election. All of this, Mateo said, contributed to his reasoning for staying through the end of this year.
“With so much transition occurring within the Council, I feel it is best at this time to ensure some level of continuity as we enter 2018,” Mateo wrote in his Dec. 27 letter. “An extension of my retirement plans would allow for my Office to provide a greater level of assistance to the Office of Council Services, and ensure one less moving piece to an already complex and ever changing environment.”
Mateo, who used to run a company on Molokai renting cars and mules to tourists, was first elected to the Maui County Council in 2010, where he served (representing Molokai) until 2012. After spending most of 2013 working as an assistant to Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, Mateo was appointed County Clerk.
Click here to read Mateo’s Dec. 8 retirement letter.
Click here to read Mateo’s Dec. 27 unretirement letter.
Photo courtesy County of Maui