Gov.-elect Josh Green on Thursday announced the names of 20 Cabinet-level appointees, including many who led state agencies during Gov. David Ige’s tenure.

They along with Green will be tasked with tackling some of the state’s longstanding issues including housing and homelessness as well as new projects like the rebuilding of Aloha Sadium and construction of a new Oahu jail.

Green, who has been lieutenant governor for four years, is to be sworn in as governor at noon Monday at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena. On Election Night, he said he planned to have most of his Cabinet installed by the time he was inaugurated.

Green’s transition team began taking applications for his new administration on Nov. 9, the day after the election. Since then, the transition team received 389 applications for Cabinet positions, 372 applications for staff positions and 161 applications for seats on state boards and commissions.

“I am assembling a Cabinet that will move the State of Hawai‘i forward and commit to a strong sense of service to the people of Hawaii,” Green said in a press release. “This is a group of high caliber individuals with strengths in their respective fields. They join together as leaders of Hawai‘i with an urgency to make change and face our challenges head on.”

Governor Elect Dr. Josh Green gives remarks to supporters at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Gov.-elect Josh Green has filled most of his Cabinet. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Ige Officials

The 20 names announced Thursday include many familiar faces. Eleven of the new appointees are state officials currently serving under Ige, and many played prominent roles in addressing the coronavirus pandemic and other crises that befell the state in the last two years.

Those include Maj. Gen Kenneth Hara and Deputy Adjutant General Stephen Logan, who will continue leading the state Department of Defense. They both spent much of 2020 managing the state’s emergency response to the pandemic.

A new health director was named — Kenneth Fink — to replace Libby Char. But Kathy Ho, deputy director for environmental health administration, will stay on. Ho will continue to oversee the defueling of the Navy’s Red Hill Fuel Facility that contaminated the drinking water of thousands of Pearl Harbor-area residents in 2021.

Char, who will stay in her role until January, took the reins of the DOH in the middle of the pandemic after former Health Director Bruce Anderson retired.

Human Services Director Cathy Betts and Deputy Director Joseph Campos II will also continue in the state Department of Human Services.

Ed Sniffen will lead the state Department of Transportation. The current transportation director, Jade Butay, will now be head of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, which became overwhelmed with processing applications for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Luis Salaveria, Ige’s former director for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, will now be the state’s budget chief. Salaveria spent most of the last four years working for the Hawaii lobbying firm SanHi.

A new Oahu jail may be on the horizon during Green’s term. Tommy Johnson, the newly appointed public safety director, would have much say over that project as well as corrections policy in general. Johnson previously worked as a deputy director overseeing corrections for the state.

Maui Community Correctional Center.
Green’s appointees include many from Ige’s Cabinet, some of whom oversaw the state’s beleaguered corrections system. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Earlier this year, the Legislature created a new Department of Law Enforcement by splitting off the narcotics and sheriffs divisions from the Department of Public Safety. Jordan Lowe, a former deputy public safety director under Ige, will oversee that new department. The agency is currently in a transitional phase and is not expected to begin full operations until 2024.

There may be some benefit to keeping some department heads around. Political observers say that institutional knowledge of an agency’s coverage area, understanding how to navigate the bureaucracy and maintaining good relationships with staffers can all be invaluable to pushing forward the next governor’s policy agenda.

All department heads are also subject to Senate confirmation. And those who have already been through the process of facing hours of sometimes critical testimony and probing questions from state senators may fare well again.

Sen. Sharon Moriwaki said she’s looking for directors who want to expand employment opportunities. She was recently named chair of the Senate Labor and Technology Committee and will oversee the confirmation process for the new labor and human resources directors. She also wants to see the labor department upgrade the technology that hampered its operations during the pandemic.

But her No. 1 criteria is a willingness to reform state government and make it more open.

“It’s about time, don’t you think?” Moriwaki said.

Government Experience

Green’s nominees who are not part of Ige’s current Cabinet still bring government experience with them.

Chris Sadayasu, a 17-year veteran of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, will now lead the state agency. His deputy will be Dane Wicker, a former staffer to Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz.

The DBEDT team will play an important role in overseeing the development of a new Aloha Stadium and the surrounding site. Green has said he wants to see housing developed concurrently with a new stadium.

Sadayasu replaces Mike McCartney, a former legislator and chief of staff to Ige.

Green nominated Anne Lopez to be the state’s next attorney general. Lopez worked most recently as the vice president and general counsel for the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which oversees the state’s public hospital system.

Aloha Stadium.
A new Aloha Stadium will be among the issues Green’s new administration needs to tackle. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Lopez replaces Holly Shikada, who just won confirmation this year after former AG Clare Connors left to become the U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii.

Just two nominees come from outside government: Nadine Ando to lead the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; and Fink as state health director.

Ando is an attorney working in commercial litigation for the firm Fukunaga Matayoshi Ching & Kon-Herrera. Fink is a vice president of Medicaid programs at the Hawaii Medical Services Association. He also previously worked as a Medicaid administrator for the state.

Positions Unfilled

Green has yet to fill some of the state’s most important positions that often find themselves in the middle of controversial issues.

Those are the directors of the Departments of Agriculture, Land and Natural Resources and Hawaiian Home Lands.

On top of their administrative duties, each director also chairs the department’s respective managing board, which sets policy direction in areas like food, farming, forestry, water and conservation.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission also has the dubious task of finding ways to get thousands of Native Hawaiians back on ancestral lands promised to them by Congress in 1921. The department’s waiting list has grown to an estimated 28,000.

The next DHHL director will also determine how $600 million from the Legislature should be spent over the next two years in an effort to put more people in homes.

The heads of those departments serve through Dec. 31. Applications for staff and cabinet positions closed at midnight Thursday.

Something to consider...

Civil Beat is a small, independent newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.

The truth is that less than 2% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.

Will you consider making a tax-deductible gift today?

About the Author