Lahaina resident Ka‘ala Buenconsejo running county Parks Department
WAILUKU – Running for the West Maui seat on the County Council in the recent election put Lahaina resident Ka’ala Buenconsejo into the world of politics. It was life-changing; win or lose, he wanted to set out on a new career path.
Shortly after losing to incumbent Councilwoman Elle Cochran by a 22,124 to 18,792 count in November’s general election, Buenconsejo learned that the director’s position was vacant in the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
He said he applied to “see where it would go.”
Buenconsejo ended up getting the $103,293 per year job and began work on Dec. 9.
“As the general came to an end… I was planning to leave marketing and begin a new career path. It was a blessing in disguise, and I am blessed for this opportunity,” he said.
In the past few whirlwind weeks, Buenconsejo has discovered the “vastness” of the 488-employee Parks Department.
It encompasses all county beach parks, community centers and ballfields, and involves personnel, projects, maintenance and upkeep.
“It’s the largest department in the county besides the Police Department and the most visible,” he said, adding that experiences in county parks and ball fields create lifelong memories in residents.
He called the Parks Department the “face of the county,” adding that he is now accountable to the three islands’ citizens.
Immediate priorities include working on the budget, transferring Ocean Safety into the Maui Fire Department and “and getting the Parks Department the tools and resources they need to be successful” for residents and visitors to enjoy the parks.
Although new to the department and county service, Buenconsejo said his professional background prepared him for the position.
He gained management experience while serving as director of marketing for Na Hoaloha Na Eha Ltd. in Lahaina, recreation experience while working as director of guest activities/special events for the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and a budget/finance background while working in the real estate industry and for Bank of Hawaii and Central Pacific Bank.
Buenconsejo said he brings to the job private sector management and customer service skills, along with a commitment to teamwork.
He said Deputy Director Brianne Savage is a huge help, and “pros are in place” to work on the facilities throughout the department.
It’s a job that requires ten- to 12-hour days, but Buenconsejo is enjoying the work. He thanked Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration for the opportunity.
He hopes to make an immediate impact in county communities.
“We want to get the parks, pools, beaches and playgrounds to a condition where everyone can enjoy it,” Buenconsejo commented.
“You’ll start to see it.”
Buenconsejo commented that West Maui now has a good team with Cochran in its corner on the County Council and him in a key county position.
“I think West Maui will definitely benefit from my appointment to director,” he said.
“Together, we have the tools West Maui has not had before.”