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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 29, 2002

Roth has 'why-can't-we-do-it' attitude

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Randy Roth first met then-Maui Mayor Linda Lingle in the late '90s, when she appeared on his Price of Paradise radio show to discuss her support for privatization.

Randall Roth

• Post: Senior policy adviser

• Born: May 14, 1948 in Ellinwood, Kan.

• Education: LL.M. (Master of Laws), University of Miami School of Law; J.D. (Juris Doctorate), University of Denver College of Law; B.S. in accounting and economics, Regis College

• Previous jobs: Law professor, University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law; consultant, Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel; associate law professor, Washburn University; assistant law professor, Hamline University; adjunct law professor, University of Denver; assistant accounting professor, Metropolitan State College; lecturer in economics, accounting and business law, Regis College; lawyer, accountant

• Family: Married to Susan W. Roth. Four children, ages 16 to 27; a grandchild

• Hobbies: Running, watching movies

• Fun facts: Ran at least 50 marathons and several 50-mile races

Now, it is the newly elected Gov. Lingle who is tapping Roth for his opinions.

As Lingle's senior policy adviser, Roth plays a big role in the governor's decisions. Among his responsibilities are helping the governor assemble a package of bills that will outline her vision for the state, as well as providing her information on a multitude of issues.

But he emphasizes that he's not the only one Lingle consults.

"I'm one of many people that the governor talks to about whatever it is that she needs to decide," Roth said as he sat in his warm, not-yet-air-conditioned office on the Capitol's fifth floor.

"She and I talk a lot and I attend a lot of meetings she has with other people, but she likes to get a lot of points of view before she makes a decision."

It's a job that some say is a perfect fit for the attorney and University of Hawai'i law professor.

"The bigger-picture stuff has always been of interest to Randy, so this is just an ideal position for him," said Larry Foster, dean of the University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law. "Randy's given 110 percent to this community over the years, and for him to do this kind of public service does not at all surprise me."

Roth has "maybe a touch of innocence and a 'why-can't-we-do-it' kind of attitude," Foster said. "Just a positive attitude. He's not someone to say, 'Well, we can't do that because of the system.' (He says,) 'Why can't we change the sys- tem?' "

Former Hawai'i Democratic Party chairman Walter Heen was one of the co-authors with Roth on the Broken Trust essay highly critical of the powerful Bishop Estate trustees, sparking a state investigation into the trust.

Heen described Roth as affable, a hard worker and a strong family man who often invited his children to sit at the table during their discussions.

But Heen and Roth, who has helped Lingle in her two gubernatorial campaigns, have publicly disagreed on political matters. Said Heen: "He's a nice enough guy as long as you understand that he has his own agenda."

The post in the governor's office is a shift of gears for Roth, whose major public roles in the community were largely as an academic outsider.

His Price of Paradise books, newspaper editorial series and radio show, which offered commentary on various political and other issues, were prompted by his disappointment and concerns with the system.

Roth said his earlier activities, specifically the Price of Paradise series, were a training ground for his new job.

"A lot of what I do is very similar to what I would do when I was attempting to get up to speed on issues and helping the public understand those issues," he said. "So in a way I feel that this is just the Price of Paradise, only it's more than just words, it's as a member of the team that has a leader, that is really in a position to actually do something about the issues, to really make life better for the people of Hawai'i."

Roth grew up in Kansas in a highly political and largely Democrat family. His mother was the chairwoman of the county Democratic Party in western Kansas, and his brothers were active in Democratic Party politics — one was a Democratic state legislator and another helped several Democrats' campaigns.

"I was kind of the black sheep in the sense that I didn't particularly like partisan politics," Roth said, noting that he never considered himself to be conservative or liberal.

After graduating from Regis College with a double major in accounting and economics, Roth worked for a year in a CPA firm and entered the Jesuits and studied for a year. He then went to law school in Denver, where he met his wife, Susie, on the No. 6 bus — "so we're fans of mass transit." They married several months later.

During law school and for the first couple of years as a practicing tax lawyer, Roth also worked as a custodian in an old church building in Denver in exchange for free rent in an upstairs apartment.

He taught law at various universities and moved to Hawai'i in 1982, teaching at the University of Hawai'i law school ever since. He also was president of the Hawai'i State Bar Association in 1999, and brought up controversial issues such as whether judicial evaluations should be made public.

Roth's new job — at least during the the infant stages of Lingle's administration — doesn't leave him much free time, and keeps him buzzing in and out of meetings, interviews and conference calls. People who work in the Capitol say they've seen state Capitol security logs showing he signed in 5:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday, and at 6:30 a.m. on Christmas day.

But Roth is thoroughly enjoying himself.

"This is the greatest job in the world," he said. "Every day is filled with fascinating issues, interesting people, I'm working for somebody that I believe in totally. I think this job, more than any job I've ever had or any job I could conceive of having, provides an opportunity to be a part of something really great."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.