Gov. Ige’s No-baloney Leadership Style

Gov. David Ige FILE PHOTO

Gov. David Ige

Governors and other public officials who must deal periodically with a press-conference reporter pack tend to fall into two categories. 1) Nimble afoot and greatly enjoying the repartee with the jackals and hyenas (i.e., Govs. Neil Abercrombie, Linda Lingle). 2) Discomfited and even somewhat disdainful (Govs. Jack Burns, Ben Cayetano and ’60s press secretary Don Horio).

And then there is rookie administrator Gov. David Ige.

I attended his first full news conference and, truth be told, I expected the worst. Ige had been godawful in the televised debates. “That’s a good question, Mary,” and then answering it in mundane generalities.

This time, I liked what I heard. Maybe he got off too easy with hardcore reporters Richard Borreca and Gordon Pang. But Ige’s such an easy-to-like fellow that you would feel bad about beating him up out of the starting gate.

He doesn’t feed you any “new beginning” or “new day” baloney. Nobody’s “paddling in the same canoe” or “catching a wave.” No shout-back at reporters he may disagree with.

He said he picked development lobbyist Carleton Ching for DLNR because he believes Ching will preserve what needs to be preserved. He dumped William Aila from DLNR because he felt it needed more decisions based on community and staff input.

No, he’s not a governor seeking to limit collective bargaining powers of the public unions, but hopes they’ll help cut the unfunded liabilities for health care.

Likes autonomy for University of Hawaii and says of the indebted cancer center: “I’m personally interested in it being sustainable.”

He’s pro-rail but doesn’t understand why the city claims it needs more money from the Legislature right now, this session.

Says he’s always reminded of Gov. John Burns saying that “anybody can take a stand.” So he won’t take a stand on how to save the state hospitals. He’ll see what can be worked out.

He strikes you as Joe Average, or maybe the uncle you’d trust as custodian for your child even though the uncle has no child-raising experience. You trust Ige with the budget even though he’s never before done a state budget of his own.

He says he will let his cabinet chiefs do their jobs as they see fit. That sounds good. But what if we citizens don’t like the way they are doing them?

He still gets out and runs about five miles three times a week. And what has most wowed him about the corner-office job is how much paperwork a governor must sign every day. He thinks that can be changed.

Mainly, he doesn’t casually toss out big programs, major visions, catchy terms.

He’s an electrical engineer. They design, develop and test electric motors, radar, navigation systems, communications systems and power generation equipment.

They work on the little stuff that gets the astronaut safely to the moon.

They don’t shoot for the moon themselves.