Lingle's top policy adviser loves her job
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
When Linda Smith sold her Kapolei plastics manufacturing company earlier this year, she had planned on taking it easy for a while.
But Smith, who has worked in the White House and in Honolulu Hale, doesn't seem to mind at all.
"Public administration has always been my first love and my first intent," said Smith, who started her new job Nov. 1.
Her arrival brings a new focus and attention to policymaking by the 1-year-old administration.
Unlike her predecessor, University of Hawai'i law professor Randall Roth, Smith doesn't have to deal with the extra duties and learning curve associated with an administration in its infancy. She notes that she has the luxury of working with a Cabinet that has several months of experience under its belt.
But it's Smith's background in the public and private sector that mostly sets her apart from Roth, whom Lingle and others describe as more of an academic. Roth, who was on loan from UH for one year, is now Lingle's adviser on education issues and is scheduled to return to the university next fall.
Smith, 56, owned and managed Pacific Allied Products, Ltd., a diversified plastics-manufacturing company in Kapolei, for 13 years before selling the business to a Seattle company.
Smith said she will bring the perspective of running a business and the "responsibility for not only creating jobs, but being able to meet payroll every two weeks, being able to see first-hand what it is like to work in Hawai'i and to try to make ends meet.
"We really believe that our job is to ensure that there is a full fleshing out of all of the options that the governor would need to take a look at for a particular policy or issue. That she gets the full spectrum to consider and that we provide her with commentary or analysis on the pros and cons."
It's a role that some say fits her well.
"She is truly a very smart person," said Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawai'i, where Smith served as board chairwoman. "She catches on very quickly. She's a quick learner. She makes every effort to try and understand where you're coming from."
Smith, a former treasurer for the Hawai'i Republican Party, also spent 16 years in public service. She was city finance director under then-Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi for two years, during which she made headlines for her role in the investigation of the Honolulu Liquor Commission.
Smith requested an audit of the commission and later hired a private detective firm to investigate further. That resulted in the firing of five liquor investigators and the disciplining of five others.
"Linda Smith was a tremendous aid to me," Fasi said. "She had all of the qualifications, knowledge, background. She knows government, state and county, from A to Z. She should be a very, very big asset for the governor."
Smith, who was born and raised in California's San Fernando Valley, also served as the director of administration for the presidential Office of Management and Budget under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and worked for two Democratic congressmen before moving to Hawai'i.
Reach Lynda Arakawa at email@example.com or at 525-8070.