When people call Honolulu Hale asking for the mayor elect, there isn’t an easy answer. Peter Carlisle is “around,” says his unofficial spokesman Jim Fulton, but Fulton won’t disclose the location of his transitional workspace.

Bill Brennan, spokesman for Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said he hasn’t been made privvy to the location of Carlisle’s temporary office. Brennan told Civil Beat that Carlisle requested a couple of folding chairs and tables be put in the building’s lobby so he could meet people there. But the meeting spot was unoccupied Thursday morning.

Where Carlisle is going to work before he’s sworn in became a sticking point almost immediately after Saturday’s election. When the mayor elect showed up to Honolulu Hale Monday with Hawaii Public Radio reporter Wayne Yoshioka, a voice in the background of the story that aired could be heard saying, “Oh, people are going to be surprised to see you.”

Carlisle didn’t sound like he saw a problem with arriving at the mayor’s office two weeks before being sworn in. He got the job, and wanted to get started.

“Oh good!” Carlisle exclaimed jovially in the radio report. “It’s empty, I can bring in boxes today!”

But his enthusiasm has raised questions from Caldwell, who lost by 4 percentage points. Carlisle isn’t officially the mayor until Oct. 8, when the election will be certified.

In the interim, city staffers prepared an area for Carlisle and his team to begin working. The space that was readied for the incoming mayor is a vast high-ceilinged room above the Department of Customer Services in a brick building next to Honolulu Hale. But Carlisle rejected an offer to use the space, calling it “completely under construction,” and saying it had a “stink of asbestos.”

A visit to the space Thursday morning called that description into question.

The space looks more like a ballroom than an office. It’s clean with gleaming wooden floors, cool with blasting air conditioning, and bright, with natural light shining through several big windows. Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann worked there before he took office six years ago, and it has since been renovated.

Tracking down the mayor elect is no easy task. Fulton took a request for five minutes of phone time with Carlisle — and with newly tapped managing director Douglas Chin — on Wednesday afternoon. Just before 8 p.m. that night, Fulton called.

“Did you talk to them?”


“They didn’t call you?”


“I told both of them to call you!”

They didn’t.

Fulton says Carlisle would be mostly be working at his campaign headquarters, the Ward Avenue office space where he celebrated election night. But early Thursday morning, he wasn’t there. In another call, Fulton told this reporter that Carlisle and Chin would be at Honolulu Hale.

“I don’t know where they are exactly,” Fulton said. “The good news is, they’re together.”

When Fulton arrives at Honolulu Hale for a separate meeting Thursday, he has little more to offer.

“I know he’s in this building,” Fulton said. “I just don’t know where he is.”

Asked when he’ll see him next: “I need to meet up with him, but I don’t know when I will.”

Fulton insisted Carlisle isn’t trying to avoid anyone, but he also wouldn’t say where his “transitional office” is located.

“I’m not sure,” Fulton said with a sigh. “You need to talk to him.”

Hours later, Chin said in a phone interview that it would be best to try to reach Carlisle through his scheduler at his headquarters. Chin is still working out of his office at the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, which is also undergoing a transition with incoming Prosecutor-elect Keith Kaneshiro.

Ask people around Honolulu Hale where they’ll be in two weeks and a lot of them shrug. Some cross fingers. Most acknowledge it’s a stressful time.

Chin said he knows the uncertainty for employees at Honolulu Hale can be hard for people. He also acknowledges he’ll have a role in deciding who keeps their jobs, and who is let go.

“Quite honestly, it breaks my heart because I think there are a lot of great public servants who are even unnessecarily feeling nervous about their jobs,” Chin said. “I think some people just want to know where they stand. If they’re fired, they’re fired, but at least they know where they stand.”

Mayoral spokesman Brennan said no matter how the rest of the transition pans out, the city will continue operating as normal.

“You’re talking about 130 jobs,” Brennan said of the officials who may change with the new administration. “There are 10,000 people who work for the city. That’s who’s really running the day-to-day.”

The top-boss of those more than 10,000 city workers, is nowhere to be found. A couple of folding tables and chairs in the main lobby of Honolulu Hale — where Carlisle said he’d be working for the next two weeks — were empty for hours Thursday morning.

Caldwell said he still believes a smooth transition is possible. His voice cracks when he says, “I’m trying.”

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