Former fire chief to head Civil Defense


HILO — Former Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira is taking over as the administrator of the county Department of Civil Defense.

Oliveira, 51, who retired in August 2011 after nine years as fire chief, replaces Ben Fuata, a 22-year military veteran who was just hired for the post last April.

“We feel very fortunate that someone of Darryl’s caliber and experience will fill that pivotal role,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday.

It’s one of several shifts Kenoi has made in his cabinet as he begins his second term. Last month, Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald was demoted to deputy director, and former Deputy Director Clay Honma was promoted to director. Kenoi is also seeking new directors for the Department of Environmental Management, Mass Transit Agency and Department of Research and Development.

Research and Development, a department charged with economic development and tourism, lost its director when Kenoi named Randy Kurohara as deputy managing director under newly appointed Managing Director Wally Lau. Lau is scheduled for a confirmation vote by the County Council on Wednesday.

“We hope to have that in place shortly,” Kenoi said of Research and Development, a department for which he has been conducting candidate interviews.

Kenoi said Monday that Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd will stay on, joining previously announced department heads in Finance and Public Works. Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida is also staying on, following an unsuccessful bid for county prosecutor.

Kenoi said Fuata submitted his resignation because the demands of the 24/7 job were having a negative impact on his health and family life.

“We wish Ben Fuata the very best and thank him for his service,” Kenoi said.

Fuata drew heat after the Oct. 27 tsunami scare, when the department sent out a message saying there was no tsunami threat, despite conflicting messages from other agencies. Malfunctions with sirens and automatic message alert systems compounded the problem.

Oliveira said Kenoi contacted him about the job Friday. He starts Wednesday, he said.

“I’d told him anytime he needed help, to give me a call,” Oliveira said. “Having worked there in the Emergency Operations Center during past emergencies, I am familiar with the operations.”