Victorino keeps his word in appointing Filipinos
“From the time that I was born, I was exposed to politics, functions of government, and community service and leadership,” said Rowena Dagdag-Andaya to the County Council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee.
“It feels like I came back home,” said Don Guzman, who smiled while reflecting on recently being appointed as County Prosecuting Attorney. In 2000, he worked as Deputy Prosecutor for the county. This year, Guzman enters the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney with a desire to align his department with the needs of the community.
“I was born and raised here on Maui in Kahului and Waiehu,” said Dagdag-Andaya, a 1994 Maui High School graduate. “My parents are hardworking people. My grandfather was a Sakada and my grandmother also worked for the pineapple cannery.” “We are here for the community,” said Guzman.
“We are public servants to help our community. I want to lead by example and be a good role model for my department. To demonstrate, Guzman has since encouraged his team to respond immediately to the community. Despite being appointed into the position and not elected as other counties’ practice—he views the public as his boss.
Like Guzman, Dagdag-Andaya was appointed by Mayor Michael Victorino as director of the Department of Public Works after his first appointee was rejected by the Council. “I told him no because I still felt my Director should have been confirmed,” said Dagdag-Andaya. “We made a great team together. I also felt I wasn’t ready at that time. It takes a lot of commitment; you have to look deep at yourself to see if you’re ready. It also involved discussing with family because of time commitments.”
Dagdag-Andaya, who has two young children ages nine and seven and whose husband Herman also works for the government, is the daughter of Fred and Judy Dagdag, who have been involved in Maui’s Filipino community for many years. “I talked with Herman and my parents,” explained Dagdag-Andaya.
“In the month before I was officially appointed, I found a lot of confidence in the staff and my colleagues in the other departments as well as the public. We also needed continuity and we were moving on a positive track and we didn’t want that to end,” she said.
“At first, I was intimidated by the approval process because of what the others went through so it took me some time to think about it. It became less intimidating as I got to know the Council members and their priorities. In the end, we’re all going to work together. I think what we need is good teamwork with all sectors.” With her appointment and confirmation, Dagdag-Andaya becomes the first female to head the Department of Public Works.
Dagdag-Andaya’s department is one of the County’s largest—with over 270 employees and an operating budget of approximately $48 million. Her short term and long term goals include adapting to sea level rise and climate change as well as dealing with road resurfacing.
Guzman’s Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Maui is responsible for the prosecution of those who violate the criminal and traffic laws or rules and regulations for the State of Hawai‘i and the County of Maui. His short-term and long-term goals include: emphasizing care and increasing resources for victims of crimes on Maui, focusing on elderly crimes, providing programs for youth of Maui to divert them away from the influence of crime, mass violence readiness and services for the County, and future legislature to create laws to prevent vagrancy and in turn—decrease homelessness.
Guzman feels his background as a legislative aide for the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives, Deputy Prosecutor, and County Councilman provides him with knowledge and insight that will help with to “think outside of the box.” He aims to be “creative and community-oriented.”
To ensure his team was on the same page, he added on to their mission statement: To seek justice through competent leadership and integrity, the Prosecuting Attorney ensures that the pursuit of justice is done in a fair, effective, and efficient manner [through a victim-centered approach.] “I want to make sure that when crimes happen, victims have the proper resources to move forward. To empower them and seek justice—not only for them but for our community.”
Dagdag-Andaya, who previously served as Deputy Director for eight years in the Arakawa administration, was also a teacher and says she misses teaching. “I do miss teaching. It’s always in my heart. I bring that with me to the County because people don’t always know what we do at the County.”
As far as Filipinos in high level positions of government, Dagdag-Andaya explained: “I was disappointed in the sense that I didn’t know many Filipinos who applied and whether any were willing to make the transition from private sector into government. I worry about whether there is a lot of Filipinos in government. I’m proud to say, however, four out of the ten engineers in the Engineering Division in the Public Works department are of Filipino ancestry.”
To combat any future disparity of hiring at the County, Dagdag-Andaya says “I hope parents will encourage their kids to take up the fields of engineering and architecture.”
Guzman embraces the future of Filipinos in high level positions of government as well. He thinks back to when Governor Ben Cayetano was in elected. He recalls the widespread sense of pride in being Filipino at the time. “It was a feeling renaissance that Filipinos had a chance to be in higher positions. At the time, it was ‘good’ to be Filipino—to have that connection with Governor (Ben Cayetano). Everyone wanted to be connected to a Filipino It was a big change from before—where there was a time where you didn’t want to be Filipino.”
“Over time, I’ve learned that whether you identify with being Filipino or not—as a Filipino, the [Filipino] community will identify with you.” Guzman said. “It’s an honor for all of us in the Filipino community that I was appointed into my position. Everything I do is for the Filipino community. My success reflects on Filipinos that have helped me and wanted the future generation to succeed.”
Vanessa Joy Baldos is a graduate of Maui High School and is currently attending University of Hawai‘i Maui College and aspires to continue being an asset for Maui County. She is currently employed with the County of Maui, Department of Parks & Recreation and Coldwell Banker—Wailea Village as a Realtor and is the 2018 Miss Maui Filipina. When she has free time, she loves to go fishing, go to the gym and practice aerial silks. She volunteers her time throughout the community with the Maui Filipino Community Council, Binhi at Ani, Read Aloud America, and Maui High School Foundation. She recently became engaged to Mark Domingo.
Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business start-up and consultation, non-profit corporations, and litigation. He has practiced law for 35 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Idica.