One of Mayor-elect Peter Carlisle’s most marked characteristics is his decisiveness. So it wasn’t surprising when Carlisle announced he’d made his pick for managing director Wednesday, just days after winning the special mayoral election.

To those well versed in Honolulu politics, the bigger surprise was that Carlisle’s pick was a fellow prosecutor: Douglas Chin has been serving as acting prosecutor since Carlisle stepped down to run for mayor in the months leading up to the election. Before that, Chin and Carlisle spent a decade working together at the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney.

Carlisle said the choice was easy. He calls Chin “a person of substance,” and “apolitical,” and wanted a managing director he could trust.

“We’re good friends and we work well together,” Carlisle said. “It helps. If One and Two are perfectly in synch, that’s going to be a whole lot better than One and Two thinking, ‘Is this guy going to be crawling up my back and stabbing it?’”

Chin echoes his longtime supervisor, and called Carlisle “a great boss to work for.”

But in separate conversations, both made sure to point out that while they worked together as prosecutors, that chapter of their professional lives is behind them.

“I am not going over as a prosector,” Chin said. “That’s not my agenda. For several years, I’ve actually been the director for this department. I actually had a very limited case load. Most prosecutors have 30 to 40 felony cases a year. I think I did maybe five in the last five years. I have been involved in budgetary matters, fiscal matters, issues having to do with grievances. We have three different unions that are represented in our office.”

Carlisle also emphasized that Chin’s years of experience and “unique personnel skills” make him well suited to help run the city. But the new mayor also acknowledged that there’s a difference running an office with fewer than 300 staffers, and running a city with more than 10,000 employees.

“This is so similar to the experience that I had for years and years in the prosecutor’s office, and it’s the same thing with Doug, except it’s at a different scale,” Carlisle said. “I’m very comfortable by the prep I’ve been given by the prosecutor’s office. We’re both well prepared for this, and far more so than I think either of — well, I’ll speak for myself — far more so than I was thinking I would be.”

Carlisle and Chin said they spent much of the past week working with human resources staffers at Honolulu Hale, making more decisions about the next era of city leadership. Carlisle said there are multiple appointments that he and Chin have jointly made, but he won’t share their picks until those workers have had the opportunity to give notice to their current employers.

At the same time, Chin is balancing his transition to Honolulu Hale with the transition at the prosecutor’s office he’s leaving. Former Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, who served as prosecutor before Carlisle, is returning to the job.

“Mr. Kaneshiro is coming in, so actually my responsibilities are divided between trying to transition into the mayor’s office with the mayor elect, and then trying to make a really smooth transition at the prosecutor’s office,” Chin said. “I feel very optimistic that we’re going to have a smooth transition, or at least a nondramatic one.”

That hasn’t necessarily been the case thus far. The week following the Sept. 18 primary began with a flap over where Carlisle would set up his transitional workspace. Carlisle rejected the offer of a newly renovated space for him to spend the two weeks before his swearing in, calling the ballroom-like area “completely under construction,” and saying it smelled of asbestos.

When asked to admit the description might be an exaggeration, Carlisle’s explanation was frank.

“That was a smart-aleck remark, OK?” Carlisle said. “You can’t smell asbestos. I made a smart-aleck remark.”

What led to the remark may have been frustration — “it’s not frustrating,” Carlisle countered — over acting mayor Caldwell’s dismay at Carlisle’s attempts to move into the mayor’s office before the election is certified. Caldwell said the City Charter specifies the office is only for the certified mayor, and said it would have been “common courtesy” for Carlisle to wait until Oct. 8.

In just over a week, Carlisle will move into that office. Until then, his response to having to wait makes him sound more like a prosecutor than anything else.

“It’s pure rubbish,” Carlisle said. “There’s no reason, pragmatically, not to do it. It has nothing to do with the law. What are you going to do? Arrest me? Throw me out? Sue me? I mean, seriously. We are not acting like grown-ups here.”

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