The Honolulu Advertiser reports that SearchWide has recommended that the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) hire former state senator and Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney to head the state's lead tourism agency. The search for a new president and CEO has been narrowed to two finalists. The two were McCartney, who served as chairman of the HTA board until 2004, and former Hawaiian Airlines executive Paul Casey. The Hawaii Tourism Authority board paid SearchWide $90,000 to conduct a search that attracted wide interest for the job. The HTA board will vote on the recommendation at its next meeting.
McCartney served in the state Legislature as a state senator from Kaneohe from 1988 through 1998. In addition to serving in the state Senate, he has held a negotiation post with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, and was director of the state's Department of Human Resources Development. McCartney currently serves as executive director of the teachers union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, with a membership of 13,500. The agency's former president, Rex Johnson, resigned under pressure last year after having his $240,000 annual salary reduced to $200,000 in the wake of controversy. He came under fire after it was revealed that he had forwarded e-mails on his state computer that contained jokes that included sexist, racist and X-rated content.
The job is seen as key at this time because tourism is reeling from months of double-digit declines in the number of visitor arrivals. Hawaii visitor arrivals fell in January for the 11th consecutive month and spending was down nearly $150 million as the nation's deepening economic slump caused anxious consumers to postpone or cancel their vacation plans.