By: Diane Ako
HONOLULU (KHNL)- Barely off to a new term and already a shakeup in the governor's cabinet. It was only a couple weeks ago Governor Linda Lingle was sworn in for her second term. Today, she announces 2 directors aren't part of her "new beginning."
Lingle says, "Both Directors (Nelson) Befitel and (Rod) Haraga have made a decision to go on and pursue other avenues. I wish them both well. They left on good terms. They both are on good terms with me."
Haraga headed the Department of Transportation. He says Lingle told him she would reappoint him in early December, then changed her mind when he was on vacation in mid-December. He returned to Hawaii Sunday December 17 and was informed Monday the 18th. Says Haraga, "She changed her mind and had reconsidered and said I wouldn't fit into the plans of her administration. Coming back first thing Monday to hear, 'You haven't been reappointed,' was disappointing for me."
Haraga is considering private and public jobs. "Even political aspirations may be part of the journey." Haraga's last day is January 4.
Harbors administrator Barry Fukunaga replaces him. Lingle says she was happy with Haraga's work and expects no DOT changes in the future. "We have our modernization plan for airports that's on track and moving forward."
The other person not returning is Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Director Nelson Befitel. He'll stay on until a replacement is found. Befitel says the governor offered him a second term, but he chose to return to the private sector so he can spend more time with family. He's weighing several options. Governor Lingle is still reviewing potential replacement candidates for the labor director position.
Governor Linda Lingle says the rest of the current cabinet is the same, ensuring continuity in the Lingle-Aiona Administration. The Governor will re-nominate 14 department directors, all of whom will need to be reconfirmed by the State Senate. In addition, Marsha Wienert will remain as the state tourism liaison, a cabinet-level position the Governor created in her first year in office. The Governor will also retain Bob Awana as chief of staff, Linda Smith as senior advisor - policy, and Lenny Klompus as senior advisor - communications.
"When the people of Hawai`i re-elected Lt. Governor Aiona and me, it was a recognition of the accomplishments and progress of our entire Administration," said Governor Lingle. "We appreciate our cabinet's strong work ethic, admire their creativity and tenacity, and value their advice and counsel. They have done an outstanding job of running their departments and working collaboratively to serve the public. Each of our directors and senior advisors has made a commitment to finding long-term solutions to the challenges facing our state and capitalizing on the opportunities for future generations. Together, we make a strong team that will continue to work hard every day to make a positive difference for the people of Hawai`i."