Clerk Spotlight: Kaua’i County, Hawaii
Scott Sato is the first one in (he frequently shows up as early as 6 a.m. or earlier during budget season) and one of the last ones to leave the Clerk’s Office in Kaua’i County—a lush, sometimes rainy paradise on the island of Kaua’i in Hawaii. Sato rose quickly through the ranks in his office, and he is lauded for increasing transparency, leading by example, and finding ways to cut costs through personnel management and innovative use of technology. (he managed to cut annual operating costs by 22 percent).
How long have you been a Deputy County Clerk?
I’ve worked in the Kaua’i County Clerk’s office for the last eight years. I started as a legislative assistant, then moved up to serve as the Council Services Review Officer. I’ve been Deputy County Clerk for about four years now.
What does a typical day look like?
Our office is a little different from other counties in Hawaii, because we handle a lot of legislative work, functioning as the County Clerk while also handling the Council Services and Elections duties. In a typical day, we’re attending council or committee meetings, keeping track of records, drafting bills, and we’re also in charge of the annual budget session—something we’re in the middle of right now. We make sure the council is following the law, and we answer their (and the public’s) questions when something comes up.
Is there anything you do that falls outside the typical role of a Clerk?
Our office handles a lot of complaints when people can’t bring an issue to a particular department, so it’s definitely not always a job where you get thanked. However, I don’t think there’s anything that’s outside the role. I, along with the Clerk and my colleagues, are here to serve other people, so we do what needs to be done.
How has the role of Clerks changed in the last five years?
The technology has definitely changed for the better. We’ve always been more of a laid-back community and definitely do not have the budgetary means to digitize everything, especially compared to some of the other county offices in Hawaii.
“We used to mail out our agendas, but we failed to reach our audience. In the past few years, many people never received them. Since then, we’ve moved to use Granicus. Now our website points people to the exact agenda the council is viewing and to the meeting archives to watch recordings, leading to greater citizen engagement.”
We have also increased our social media presence to assist us in reaching many more in our community.
I’m proud to say that now we often receive calls from other counties for assistance. They want to know how we are able to work so efficiently despite having just a single team working on both typical clerk work and serving as council staff.
What’s something the public doesn’t know about being a clerk?
We’re not here to be in the spotlight—I think a lot of us like the anonymity. You don’t do this job for the fame or money. Everyone in this office is working toward the mission of making life better for the people of Kaua’i. In Hawaii, we place an importance on Ohana, which means “family.” We’re always looking out for each other, and we make family a priority. I’m proud to work with everyone here in our office and proud of the work that we do.
What do you do outside of your role as a clerk?
When you live on an island, sometimes you just need to get away. I love visiting Japan or Las Vegas.