National Guard Colonel to Head Civil Defense Agency
by Dave Smith
Hawaii County has again gone to the military’s ranks to head its Civil Defense Agency.
Mayor Billy Kenoi announced today that Col. Benedict “Ben” Fuata of the Hawaii Army National Guard will become the agency’s next director. Fuata will take charge of the agency after transitioning from his National Guard position “in the coming weeks,” a statement from Kenoi’s office said.
Fuata will replace Quince Mento, who retired Dec. 1 after less than four years on the job.
Mento spent 26 years in the Hawaii County Fire Department before becoming civil defense chief in 2008. The man he replaced, Troy Kindred, was also an active member of the National Guard when he was named to the civil defense post and, while working for the county, did a stint of active duty in Iraq in 2004.
It was not immediately clear whether Fuata will remain in the National Guard and be subject to future deployments.
Since Mento’s resignation, the Civil Defense Agency has been under the leadership of staff officer John Drummond.
Fuata, 50, has served since 1993 as Commander of the Army Aviation Support Facility in Hilo. He is also the Hawaii National Guard’s director for logistics.
Whoever heads the Big Island’s Civil Defense Agency faces a wide variety of natural disaster threats including lava flows, tsunami and frequent earthquakes. The island also covers 4,000 square miles containing mountains more than 13,000 feet in height, presenting numerous logistic obstacles.
Fuata said in a statement that his 29 years of military service will help him adapt to the challenges.
“Hawaii County Civil Defense is a first-class operation, and I hope I can do the office justice,” he said.
“Col. Fuata brings to the county impressive credentials, both professionally and as a public servant,” Kenoi said. “He is a proven leader who will only enhance an outstanding agency and public safety team.”
Fuata was born and grew up in Honolulu. He is a graduate of Damien Memorial High School and earned a degree in political science from the University of Santa Clara in California. He received a master’s degree in organizational management in 2000 from the University of Phoenix. He serves as a board member for the Hawaii Island Home for Recovery.
Fuata lives in Mountain View with his wife, Teresa, and two daughters.