Pending a search for a permanent replacement, the No. 2 official at the agency is in charge.

The deputy of Maui’s Emergency Management Agency has automatically assumed the helm, the mayor said Friday, after the agency’s head resigned amid the aftermath of wildfires that devastated the island.

The departure of Herman Andaya, who had faced questions over his qualification and handling of the deadly disaster, left a gap in the agency as the search for human remains continues in the hardest-hit area of Lahaina and thousands of survivors struggle to get aid.

Bissen said he hopes to name a new interim replacement for Herman Andaya by Monday pending a formal search for a permanent EMA chief, which is a civil service position. 

In the meantime, he said the No. 2 in command, Rocky Keohuhu-Bolor, “automatically takes over that position.”

Mayor Richard Bissen greets volunteers and hands out sandwiches at the Lahaina Gateway Center, a shopping center that has become a donation drop-off point for the fire-ravaged town. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Since it’s a civil service position, the permanent replacement will be required to have taken the civil service test and be on a list, Bissen said during a press conference. He spoke after greeting and handing out sandwiches to volunteers at a county aid distribution hub at the Lahaina Gateway Center.

“When that list is provided then we’ll go,” he said. “But we’re not going to wait for that to happen. I’m going to find somebody. I have spoken to a couple folks. I just need to hear back from them.”

On Thursday, Bissen said he had accepted Andaya’s resignation, which Andaya issued “citing health reasons,” according to the county. 

The resignation came a day after Andaya publicly stated he had no regrets about not activating emergency alert sirens that many community members feel could have saved lives last week. 

Civil Beat also reported that Andaya was hired in 2017 despite the fact that he lacked formal experience in emergency response. The 52-year-old Maui native said in response that as a chief of staff for a former mayor, he was qualified for the job.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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