Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento has announced his retirement effective tomorrow (Dec. 1). In his place, John T. Drummond, an administrative officer at Civil Defense, will serve as interim administrator.
Mento, 53, is a Hawaii Island native and 1976 graduate of Konawaena High School. He has been in charge of keeping island residents safe from natural and man-made dangers for three and a half years. Prior to his appointment, Mento worked his way up through the ranks of the Honolulu and Hawaii County Fire Departments from firefighter to assistant chief.
“I’ve spent 29-and-a-half years in public safety, and it takes a toll on you,” said Mento, who added he has no immediate plans except to relax for a while. “This job is 24 hours a day and I need to start thinking about my health.”
Mento said he is proud of the advances Civil Defense has made in the time he has led the seven-person operation. “I think we’ve made some major improvements in the notification system, communications technology and relationships with partner agencies,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the privilege of serving our island and I hope I’ve made some impact.”
Using the word “hectic” to describe the position of the Civil Defense administrator, Mento would not say the job is the toughest among his fellow state directors, but added that situations are unceasing. “Flash flooding, hurricane warnings, lava flows, earthquakes, tsunamis, vog alerts, brush fires,” said Mento. “It is incessant in terms of what is going on.”
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said the retirement of Mento is a significant loss for the county. “It has been an honor and privilege serving with Quince,” said Kenoi. “He is going to be sorely missed and it’s going to be tough to fill his shoes.”
Mento and his wife, Joanne, have two children: Cullen is a freshman at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Grayson is a junior at Hilo High School.
Drummond, who has worked at Hawaii County Civil Defense for more than three years, will serve with the assistance of Police Chief Harry Kubojiri and Fire Chief Darren Rosario during the 45-day search for a permanent replacement.
“We expect to have a new administrator in place by mid-January,” said Mayor Kenoi. “But I expect a smooth transition from Quince, to John and then to the new administrator.”