He’s lost another one.

The departure of Jim Boersema, Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s communications director, at the end of this month adds to the growing number of top aides and other officials who have left the administration.

Boersema is also the governor’s second communications director in the 21 months he has been in office.

He replaced Josh Levinson, who just a year ago abruptly resigned along with his deputy, Laurie Au, chief of staff Amy Asselbaye and deputy chief of staff Andrew Aoki.

At that time, Senior Democrats had complained to the governor that team was inexperienced and making it difficult for him to govern effectively.

Boersema explained his reasons for leaving.

“I’ve got other things I want to do,” Boersema told Civil Beat Thursday. “I love Neil, I think he’s trying his best. I came in to help turn things around, and I think he has. It’s my one year.”

Boersema said he would continue in his roles as chair of Unity House and Olelo Community Media.

“I also said in my letter to the governor that he could call me any time,” he added.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, the governor’s deputy director of communications and press secretary, said in a statement, “The Governor asked Mr. Boersema to assist the Administration during a period of transition last year. At the time, the discussed timeframe was one year, during which time Mr. Boersema placed several of his own business and personal pursuits on hold. Now that a year has passed, he is returning his attention back to those pursuits as well as assisting with the Governor’s campaign activities.”

Asked if she might be taking Boersema’s job, Dela Cruz said, “I’m not replacing anyone but I am continuing the work that needs to be done.”

‘Call Donalyn’

There had been talk around the state Capitol for some time that Boersema was frustrated in his position, and that he and Dela Cruz had jockeyed for influence with the governor. Boersema is a longtime friend of Abercrombie’s, while Dela Cruz has worked very closely with Abercrombie during his governorship.

Like Boersema, the administration is putting the best face on the latest resignation.

Dela Cruz said Boersema’s departure “in no way effects the way we have been communicating with the public or the media. The functions of the communications office will be covered.”

She said an announcement would be issued at later date regarding the status of the communications office. In addition to Dela Cruz, it includes communications manager Keith DeMello and new media specialist Ricky Li, both relatively recent hires.

Unlike Asselbaye, Andrews, Levinson and Au, Dela Cruz did not work on Abercrombie’s 2010 campaign for governor. When Levinson and Au quit last October, Dela Cruz was promoted and now serves as the chief go-to person for the administration.

When reached by reporters, for example, the first thing administration staff often tell them is, “Call Donalyn.”

A former KHON-TV reporter, press secretary to U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and communications director for the Democratic Party of Hawaii, Dela Cruz is well-versed in local politics and government.

She helps coordinate the governor’s availability to the public and is the gatekeeper for media access. At press conferences and public meetings, it is Dela Cruz who usually announces, “Last question.”

Like her brother, state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, she is also charismatic and ambitious. Earlier this month, she was named a member of the inaugural class of the Omidyar Fellows program, a leadership development program named for Civil Beat Publisher Pierre Omidyar.

Stable, Yet Still In Flux

During Boersema’s tenure, the Abercrombie administration seemed to turn a corner after a rough first 10 months in office.

It included mixed success with its ambitious legislative agenda, public blunders like criticism of the NFL Pro Bowl, protracted contract negotiations with the teachers’ union and a mismanaged attempt to dismiss members of boards and commissions.

Along with Boersema, the governor was helped with a new chief of staff, Bruce Coppa, a new deputy chief of staff, Blake Oshiro, and experienced legislative hands like Kate Stanley. With his new team Abercrombie has notched notable legislative victories such as the ceded-land revenue deal with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Still, his administration continues to be somewhat of a revolving door.

When Civil Beat asked him about staff turnovers during an interview last March, he had experienced 12 resignations in just 15 months.

“That’s to be expected, particularly with some of the people that have sacrificed themselves,” he said. “If you look, several of them all have small children.”

By August, according to Civil Beat research, the number had grown to 17 (it includes several who switched jobs). They include two directors each for the departments of Public Safety, Health, Hawaiian Home Lands and Human Resources Development.

Should Gary Hooser, director of Environmental Quality Control, be elected to the Kauai County Council this November, that would make 19 including Boersema.

That said, other top people working for Abercrombie continue to demonstrate steady, high-profile and generally well-regarded service. They include Attorney General David Louie, Land Board Director William Aila, Budget Director Kalbert Young and Human Services Director Pat McManaman.

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