Rex Johnson, Mike McCartney and now Ronald Williams in charge of the Hawaii Tourism Authority

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The message from the Hawaii Tourism Authority today is Mahalo Mike McCartney, Aloha and welcome Ronald Williams as our new CEO and president.

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The message from the Hawaii Tourism Authority today is Mahalo Mike McCartney, Aloha and welcome Ronald Williams as our new CEO and president.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is one of the most important state agencies in Hawaii. HTA is in charge of the Hawaii travel and tourism industry. Travel and tourism is the largest industry, the largest source of employment, and the largest export to the Aloha State.

In 2008, Rex Johnson resigned from his post as President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority in 2008, and has resurfaced at a Hawaii-based disaster preparedness organization.

Rex Johnson resigned under pressure after having his $240,000 a year salary reduced to $200,000 in the wake of controversy. He came under fire after it was revealed that he had forwarded e-mails on his state computer that contained jokes that included sexist, racist, and X-rated content.

McCartney, who headed PBS Hawaii while serving as HTA Chairman, was replaced on the HTA board in 2004 by Gov. Linda Lingle, who said she wanted more people with day-to-day tourism experience.Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who had chosen to broaden the body beyond strictly industry people, had put McCartney on the Board.

When Cayetano was governor he said, “What has dominated the HTA over its short life has been this mentality, spawned mostly by the hotel people, that whatever is good for the hotels is good for tourism, and that’s not necessarily the case, because there are larger goals that we have for tourism.”

McCartney’s relatively short circulation to the tourism industry is now terminated. Hawaii Governor-elect David Ige announced last week that he will appoint Mike McCartney as the Chief of Staff for the State of Hawaii when he assumes office on December 1, 2014.

Today, the Hawaii Tourism Authority announced that Ronald Williams has been appointed by the HTA Board of Directors as the interim President and CEO. Williams will take over responsibilities effective November 21, 2014, following the departure of current HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney.

Mr. Williams is the President and CEO of Atlantis Adventures and was HTA’s Board Chairman from 2010 to 2014. Ronald Williams resides on the Island of Maui.

“Ron brings with him an incredible wealth of knowledge of the HTA and more than 30 years of experience in Hawaii’s visitor industry,” said Aaron J. Sala, HTA Board Chair. “We are pleased that he could step in and ease the transition for the HTA, as we search for a permanent President and CEO.”

Williams was appointed to the HTA Board of Directors in 2009, and served as Board Chair from 2010 through 2014. He is currently the President and CEO of Atlantis Adventures, a large tourism attraction company in the State.

“It is an honor to have been selected as the interim President and CEO during this transitional period,” said Williams. “I am committed to working with the HTA Board and staff on maintaining the success of our tourism economy. On behalf of the HTA, I would like to extend a sincere mahalo to Mike McCartney for serving Hawaii’s visitor industry and wish him well in his new position as he continues to serve the State of Hawaii.”

The HTA Board of Directors established a Search Investigative Committee and authorized the Administrative Standing Committee to appoint HTA Board members and representatives from the community to serve on the Search Investigative Committee. The HTA will officially announce the job opening, qualifications, and selection criteria once the position has been posted.

Established in 1998, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency, is responsible for strategically managing tourism to optimize benefits for Hawaii that integrate the interest of visitors, the community, and visitor industry.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.