Recent transitions of leadership in Hawai'i will have a far-reaching impact on the State of Hawai'i that will extend well beyond the New Year.
While we mourn the passing of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye--a keiki o ka 'aina who embodied the essence of leadership and service to our state and nation--we must also honor him by building on the remarkable foundation he laid for Hawai'i as the youngest state in the union.
By appointing former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to the U.S. Senate, it was my intention to provide our state with not only the strongest, best-prepared congressional delegation to lead us today, but also the strongest, most well-rounded delegation over the long-term.
On Jan. 3, the same day on which Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard were being sworn in at our nation’s Capitol, former state Senate President Shan S. Tsutsui was being sworn in as our new lt. governor here at home.
As the only nominee submitted by the Democratic Party of Hawai'i Central Committee to have earned the endorsement of the people of Hawai'i in a statewide election, Sen. Schatz accepted his new title and responsibilities ready to commit to decades of service in Washington, should the people wish it. Already, his assignments to the Senate Committees on Energy and Natural Resources, Indian Affairs and Commerce indicate an excellent start.
Hawai'i will continue to benefit from the leadership of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as she builds upon her seniority in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Armed Services Committee positions that she and newly elected Sen. Mazie Hirono hold in both the House and Senate, respectively, are particularly vital to our state.
Likewise, I am confident that newly elected Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will represent Hawai'i well on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, particularly as the Unites States shifts its focus toward the increasingly strategic Asia-Pacific region.
But change over the last month did not stop there.
On Jan. 3, the same day on which Sen. Hirono and Rep. Gabbard were being sworn in at our nation's Capitol, former state Senate President Shan S. Tsutsui was being sworn in as our new lt. governor here at home.
A resident of Maui, Lt. Gov. Tsutsui's acceptance reflects this administration's commitment to represent all the people of Hawai'i as a statewide community, not one that is O'ahu-centric. While the Office of the Lt. Governor will continue to conduct business at the State Capitol in Honolulu, plans are underway to establish an additional office on Maui, expanding the office's reach and accessibility to all island communities.
In the past, Neighbor Island elected officials might have thought they had to move to Honolulu in order to serve. In my view, this may no longer be necessary, especially as technology brings us closer together and the state's information technology (IT) transformation plan, now entering implementation, affords greater opportunities to conduct business from all islands.
Other Maui residents joining Lt. Gov. Tsutsui in new positions this year are recently appointed state Sen. Gilbert Samuel Coloma Keith-Agaran (District 5) and state Rep. Justin Howard Woodson (District 9).
Upon receiving nominations from Maui Democrats and party officials, I worked expeditiously to make their appointments quickly and prior to the start of the 2013 legislative session, so that the people of Maui continued to receive full representation in the state Legislature. Their experience, familiarity with state government, and commitment to the people of Maui will ensure that the interests of their districts are heard and considered without interruption.
There is much more work to be done, but Hawai'i's next generation of leadership is here to make it happen. Decades from now, I believe Hawai'i residents will point to 2013 as the start of a new, prosperous era in the leadership of these islands.