It’s the end of an era.

Damien Kim, chairman of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board and its last original member, has announced he’ll step down this summer.

Kim was appointed to the volunteer board by the City Council in 2011, when HART was formed, and his most recent term expires June 30. He’s asked the council not to reappoint him even though he’s eligible, Kim told Civil Beat on Tuesday.

HART Board Chair Damien Kim meeting held at Alii Place.
HART Board Chair Damien Kim during a meeting at the rail agency’s Alii Place headquarters. The last original board member, Kim has announced he won’t seek re-appointment Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He’s agreed to stay on until the council replaces him, however. The board will likely pick his replacement to serve as chair at its next meeting, he added.

Kim serves as business manager and financial secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1186. He replaced former Rep. Colleen Hanabubusa as the HART board’s chair when she returned to Congress in 2016 and he’s remained in that post ever since.

He’s not the only member leaving the HART board this summer.

Ember Shinn has asked not to be reappointed when her term expires June 30, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office confirmed Tuesday.

Shinn was appointed by Caldwell in 2017 to fill the board seat left early by William “Buzzy” Hong. Shinn had previously served as Caldwell’s managing director. At HART she focused much of her efforts trying to reform the board’s own policies and procedures.

A Caldwell spokesman said their office is currently searching for Shinn’s replacement.

HART Board Member Ember Shinn asks questions about the line items on the budget.
Ember Shinn will leave the HART board this summer as well. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office is seeking her replacement. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

When it was formed, HART’s board had 10 seats, including nine voting members. It was later expanded to14 seats as part of a 2017 state bailout package.

During his eight years on the board, Kim has seen at least 16 other members leave.

During the same period, the rail project managed to survive state and federal legal challenges — but its multi-billion-dollar budget has nearly doubled, and its completion date has been pushed back at least six years.

The project still faces tremendous uncertainty.

Several members left the HART board as part of the normal turnover in city and state administrations. However, others left to pursue different opportunities or because the council declined to reappoint them.

Kim said the workload for the volunteer board has increased as rail has faced more challenges. “It does make it difficult,” he said.

Overall, the HART agency itself has grappled with widespread turnover in key management positions.

“I appreciated the eight years i put on, believe it or not,” Kim said Tuesday. “I loved being on the board,” as well as being part of a project “that will change the lives of everyone in Honolulu,” he added.

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