Hawaii County’s top union negotiator is retiring, leaving the county looking within its ranks for a successor.
Ron Takahashi, who was appointed to the $99,000 annual Cabinet-level position of director of the Department of Human Resources in late 2009 after four years as deputy, is retiring effective Aug. 30, taking with him more than 32 years of county administrative experience.
It’s been a long four years for Takahashi, who not only sat at the bargaining table with representatives of the other counties and the governor on statewide agreements with the four major public-sector unions, but also negotiated side contracts when Hawaii County decided to keep furloughs going past the state expiration date.
“Ron has lent a steady hand and calm leadership during challenging times,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said Thursday. “We’ve gone through multiple rounds of collective bargaining with all our unions as well as arbitration.”
The Merit Appeals Board, which oversees the position, is advertising internally for a replacement, as per civil service requirements, said MAB Chairman Kenneth Rowe. The search can be broadened outside county government if no qualified applicant is found for the position after the Aug. 2 application deadline.
“We’re going through the internal civil service procedure,” Rowe said. “It’s how every (civil service) employee of the county is hired.”
The board had appointed Takahashi outright without advertising the position upon the recommendation of the previous HR director, Mike Ben. Ben had asked the board to appoint Takahashi as his replacement because he had been grooming him to take over upon his retirement.
“After 32-plus years of service with the county, I thought it was time to leave on a high note,” Takahashi said. “I just felt it was time.”
The job requires a bachelor’s degree in human resources or related field and five years in an HR department, three in an administrative capacity. Four additional years of HR experience can substitute for the degree.
The director oversees a 28-person department and a $1.8 million budget. He or she is charged with recruitment and examination of potential hires for the county as well as devising compensation, benefits, health and safety and employee relations programs, in addition to union negotiations.
The job description requires the director to “continually assess the competitiveness of the county’s human resource management program to ensure that the county continues to attract and retain qualified and competent individuals.”
“Ron has decades of public service and I wish him well in his retirement,” said Brian De Lima, who also sits on the Merit Appeals Board. “I respect that he has decided to retire at this point.”