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How the County of Maui ended up with 700 public service job vacancies

Casey Harlow

The police, Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Housing and Human Concerns are in need of new employees on Maui.

The County of Maui has 700 job vacancies across all of its departments, Councilmember Nohe Uʻu-Hodgins reported on the council's website.

Cynthia Razo-Porter, deputy director of the Department of Personnel Services, briefed the council's Efficiency Solutions and Circular Systems Committee last week. She said the vacancies may not be the full picture.

"When we run that report of vacant positions, that's kind of a raw list," she said. "I'm not even sure that all of them have funding or where they’re at."

Razo-Porter said her department is only able to recruit for the positions that are ready to be filled, so vacancies can stay empty while funding is sought or the right applicants are found.

Historically, the county has struggled to fill engineer and dispatcher positions. About 90 of the vacancies are in continuous recruitment.

"I've worked for the county for a few a couple of decades now and it's been a challenge just getting the engineers to come in," Razo-Porter said, noting that pay can sometimes be the determining factor.

"One of the tools in the toolbox is recruiting above the minimum, so we do have that ability," she said.

High vacancy numbers are an issue across the state.

"We have a meeting coming up with all the other HR (Human Resource) directors and this is one of the issues that's kind of front of mind," Razo-Porter told the committee.

Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura said she understands this isn't a simple issue

"I can see where the complexities are, as we have heard all through budget (season) from the departments about unfilled positions," Sugimura said.

"Not only do they have to go through this process, but it's finding the people I think is a challenge in this kind of work environment or where our economy is and what has happened during COVID," she said.

The county is also seeking to fill 30 vacant seats on volunteer boards and commissions.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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