The hunt for a new executive director is continuing.

Warren Watanabe, a seasoned agricultural advocate, has been elected to lead the Agribusiness Development Corp.’s board of directors.

The election at a meeting Thursday, comes as part of a leadership shakeup for the ADC following the unexpected death of long-time executive director James Nakatani in April.

Former board chair Frederick Lau stepped down from his role following Nakatani’s death so that he could be considered for the executive director role.

Watanabe has been serving as vice chair.

Watanabe, who is also executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, was nominated by ADC’s Kauai County representative board member Lyle Tabata, with a unanimous vote in support.

Tabata, an engineer, was elected as vice chair after being nominated by Watanabe.

The state-owned corporation has been heavily criticized for being ineffective in reinvigorating Hawaii’s agricultural economy, its statutory purpose, and was censured in a state audit and investigated by the state.

  • ‘Hawaii Grown’ Special Series

Because the ADC is now poised to receive millions of dollars for its projects, previous concerns have been amplified about the corporation’s future direction.

The search for Nakatani’s replacement is continuing though, with applications being accepted until June 26.

A hiring committee was formed last month, tasked with creating a short list of three candidates for the executive directorship, which will be taken to the ADC’s Board of Directors for selection.

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author