Maui planning chief resigns
By HARRY EAGAR
WAILUKU, Maui — Maui County planning director Jeff Hunt has resigned, Mayor Charmaine Tavares announced Wednesday.
The Planning Department's top position will be filled by deputy director Kathleen Ross Aoki beginning tomorrow, according to the announcement. Hunt will remain with the department and return to his previous post as the West Maui planner in the Current Planning Division.
Reached by telephone at his home Wednesday, Hunt said he was resigning for personal reasons. He did not elaborate, except to say, "The director's job some days feels like it should come with a surgeon general's warning."
Appointed in 2007, Hunt oversaw the department as it carried out a crackdown on transient vacation rentals and labored through the General Plan update process.
Aoki's spot as deputy will be taken by Ann Cua, supervisor of the Current Planning Division.
As director of the department, Aoki will earn $101,500 annually; Cua will receive $96,100 as deputy.
The position to which Hunt is returning had been among those flagged for elimination by the county council's Budget and Finance Committee in the 2011 fiscal year budget. Planning officials had appeared before the committee Wednesday morning to ask that it not be cut, but made no mention of the news that was to be announced later in the day.
Hunt had return rights to the job, and council members restored it to the budget Wednesday evening.
Maui Planning Commission chairman Jonathan Starr said, "I think Jeff Hunt has done a good job and has stood up for planning principles."
Councilman Mike Molina said he was concerned that the resignation came as the council was midway through its review of the Maui Island Plan. Hunt had spent hours with the council, shepherding the plan through the process.
"For me that would be the question — why now?" Molina said. "It's an unfortunate time for the director to be stepping down."
Councilwoman Gladys Baisa said Hunt had done a fine job as planning director.
"I had no problem with Jeff," she said. "We worked together very well."
She said she was delighted with the appointments of Aoki and Cua, and said she knew both of them to be experienced planners.
"I'm just excited," Baisa said. "We've got the ladies running the Planning Department now."
Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, said she was surprised by the news. "Maui Tomorrow is very sorry to see Jeff Hunt step down as director," she said. "We didn't agree with him on every issue, but we did respect his work on the Maui Island Plan."