Economy Hawaii TourismWritten by Jason Ubay On 31 August 2010

When I heard the news that Honolulu City Council chairman Todd Apo was named director of public affairs for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Hawaii, my initial reaction was, “Huh?”

In case you aren’t familiar with Apo’s resume, here it is straight from the press release [bracketed text added by me]:

Currently Apo is a member of the Honolulu City Council [serving
District 1 covering Ewa, Kapolei and the Waianae Coast], where he
has served as Council Chair since 2008. He will resign from the
Chairmanship and Council upon starting in his new position with
Disney on November 8. He was first elected to the Council in 2004
and has additionally served as the Budget and Transportation
Committee Chair. Apo also works for The Resort Group and has helped
to develop and operate the Ko Olina Resort and Marina since 2001.
Prior to this, he was a practicing attorney and represented the group
that bought the Ko Olina property.

And since sitting on the council chair is a part-time job, his full-time job was VP of corporate operations at Ko Olina Resort (at least when I talked to him back in early 2009). So, in essence, he served as an attorney representing the company that bought Ko Olina; then he worked for the resort group operating Ko Olina; then he was elected to the city council in the district representing Ko Olina; then he worked with Disney because it wanted to build in his district (as most politicians do with developers).

Last year, I wrote “Mickey Checks In” regarding the then-unnamed Hawaii Disney Resort, Aulani. I interviewed the councilman at his office.

Apo is familiar with his district’s developments. One wall of his
Honolulu Hale office has zoning key maps, while another wall
displays  more than a half dozen o‘o sticks to commemorate each
groundbreaking he’s attended. On the shelf is a framed Disney
photo; in the picture the councilman is standing next to a group
of people including Jay Rasulo, chairman of Disney Resorts and
Parks, and cartoon figure Lilo.

Weird. But is there any reason to believe there’s any wrongdoing? No. In fact, unlike other politicians, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone ever say negative things about Todd Apo.

And the more I thought about it, I remembered the cliche, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The best way to get a job is to know someone at the company and have them recommend you. Knowing how someone works is best discovered by actually working with them. Personally, I’m at my current company because someone working here recommended me. It’s a small world, after all.

And to be completely cynical, he will probably make much more money with Disney than he did at the City Council. In April, Honolulu Magazine reported his salary at $58,596.

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Managing Editor, Hawaii Business magazine. He's also representing the mag on Facebook and Twitter at @hawaiibusiness. You can follow him on Twitter at @jubay.

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