Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, is leaving office effective Wednesday.

According to a press release Monday, he will return to his home island of Maui to join Strategies 360, a public affairs, strategic communications and research firm.

“Over the past 15 years, it has been my honor and privilege to have served the people of Hawaii, first as a state senator from Maui and Senate president, and currently as your lieutenant governor,” Tsutsui said in a press release. “Throughout that time, I have always been mindful of the tremendous responsibility that comes with public office.”

LT Gov Shan Tsutsui before Democratic Convention held at the Sheraton Hotel. 28 may 2016
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui is leaving his post to return to the private sector. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Update: Gov. David Ige issued the following statement several hours after the news broke:

It is with a mixture of sadness and gratitude that I learned of Shan’s decision to step down from his position as lieutenant governor. He has dedicated the last 15 years to serving the people of Hawaii. As lieutenant governor he has worked tirelessly on Aloha Stadium and the Farm to School Initiative in our effort to boost local food production in our state. I also applaud Shan’s effort to support after-school programs in our public schools. I wish Shan and his family the very best always.

Ige is in a tough re-election battle against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, while nearly a half-dozen candidates are vying for the lieutenant governor position.

State law calls for the Senate president to be lieutenant governor in the event of succession.

Senate President Ron Kouchi released a statement midday Monday, saying, “With regard to the soon to be vacant Office of the Lieutenant Governor, I am not interested in becoming the next Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaii.”

The next in line is the House speaker, a post currently held by Scott Saiki. On Monday, Saiki had no response to Tsutsui’s resignation.

Update: After speaker, the LG job falls to the state attorney general, the state director of finance, the state comptroller, the state director of taxation and the state director of human resources development, in that order.

That would be, respectively, Doug Chin, Laurel Johnston, Rod Becker, Linda Chu Takayama and Ryker Wada. Johnston is an acting director while Takayama and Wada are interim directors. Chin is an announced candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat.

State law requires that an officer of the government who is to act as governor or lieutenant governor in the event of a vacancy must have already been confirmed by the state Senate.

An Appointee In 2012

The job of Hawaii lieutenant governor holds few responsibilities but is seen as a stepping stone to higher office.

Tsutsui, a Democrat, was appointed lieutenant governor by fellow Democrat Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2012 to replace Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who Abercrombie appointed to replace the late Dan Inouye in the U.S. Senate.

He was reluctant to take the job, but Abercrombie made it more attractive by allowing Tsutsui to work part-time from Maui rather than full-time from the fifth floor offices at the state Capitol in Honolulu.

He won the seat in his own right in 2014, but Abercrombie lost to David Ige, a former state senator.

Tsutsui, 46, had publicly expressed his desire to leave his office to run for Maui mayor in 2018. But he later decided against it.

In the press release announcing his departure, he said:

“It’s my hope that we will continue to acknowledge the rich history of our state, and remain grateful for the contributions and sacrifices of generations past; that we will explore new ways to invest in our residents, businesses, and communities to make them more sustainable, competitive, and economically robust. And as I leave public service, I look forward to continuing to be a part of Hawaii’s future and helping to forge a new path that honors our shared beliefs and my continued commitment to improving the lives of the people of Hawaii.”

Seattle-based Strategies 360 is a well-known operation in the U.S. West. In 2016, it hired John White to launch its Hawaii operations.

White is best known for his work with Pacific Resource Partnership, the group representing the pro-Honolulu rail Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters and several hundred contractors.

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