Scott Teruya: “I’m a numbers guy”
*Editor’s Note*: This is part of a series of profiles highlighting Mayor Michael Victorino’s appointees to Maui County department head positions. The Maui County Council is reviewing Mayor Victorino’s nomination’s in the Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee.
Give Scott Teruya a spreadsheet with numbers and equations, and he settles right into his comfort zone.
“Math just came naturally to me,” Teruya said. “I’m numbers guy. You give me an English essay to write, though, and that’s a very, very different story. That’s the blank stare.”
Luckily for the new acting finance director, crunching numbers and balancing the County of Maui’s budget will be his primary concern. He last served as chief of the Department of Finance Real Property Assessment Division, which he had worked for since 1997.
Born and raised in Manoa Valley, Teruya lost his mother at 7 years old and was cared for by his father and step-mother. He spent most of his childhood biking down to the beach with his friends, but dreaded the journey home.
“It was all downhill from Manoa,” he said. “I never road my bike back home. Too many steep roads.”
Teruya grew up with a passion for sports and would go on to play football, baseball and track for Roosevelt High School. He walked-on as a catcher at the University of Hawaii and endured two injury-riddled seasons, while figuring out his major.
“I went from engineering to architecture to business,” he said. “It was normal to spend all night doing an architecture project and I realized I never liked the taste of coffee, so I often dozed off. That’s when I decided to go back to numbers.”
Teruya opted for business and graduated from UH Manoa in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Business Administration. Four years later, he and his soon to be wife, Leina, a Maui High School grad, moved to Maui. The couple share a son, Kahiau.
Outside of work, Teruya volunteers for a number of organizations, including as president of the Central Maui Bronco Baseball Organization. Over 800 kids participate in the program. Teruya also has coached youth baseball for over 15 years and serves as an assistant coach for Maui High’s baseball team.
Teruya light-heartedly credited his experience as a catcher and coach for helping him take on the role as finance director. He added that he'd like to upgrade the department's workflow move away from paper-based systems, as well as implement Mayor Michael Victorino’s customer-based and can-do attitude into the department.
“I know a lot of people hate change, but sometimes change is needed and that is something Mr. Victorino and I had a long discussion about bringing to the Finance Department,” Teruya said.
“I’ve been on the job for three weeks now and I know this job isn’t for everyone,” he continued. “You need to be very well rounded to manage the director’s office, five diverse divisions and still be the steward for all county finances. I’m always looking for efficiencies that we can develop and future-proof this place. This is all new again and kind of feels like your first job. I kind of got that butterfly feeling in my stomach, like the excitement before the game.”
Teruya said he has worked every day since he stepped in to his position and was humbled by Mayor Michael Victorino’s appointment.
“Some days I’m here before the AC turns on,” he said. “I will give it my 100 percent with the goal of one day retiring knowing I’m leaving this place as a role model for other government agencies to achieve. I welcome the challenge.”