J.Kalani English

Haraga and Befitel leave Lingle Cabinet

Huge H-1 snarl among Haraga's darkest hours

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Thursday, December 21, 2006

By B.J. Reyes
bjreyes@starbulletin.com

Transportation Director Rod Haraga and Labor Director Nelson Befitel will not be reappointed to their positions in Gov. Linda Lingle's Cabinet as she embarks on her second four-year term in office.

Haraga will be replaced by Barry Fukunaga, the department's deputy director in charge of harbors. Befitel will stay on board until a replacement can be found.

Lingle announced the members of her Cabinet yesterday at a news conference in her office, saying that both Haraga and Befitel "have made a decision to go on and pursue other avenues." They are the only members of Lingle's 16-member Cabinet not returning.

Haraga, contacted later by telephone, contradicted the governor's statement.

"I'm very disappointed that I couldn't serve another four years," Haraga said. "Apparently, I didn't fit into the governor's plans."

Haraga said he left for vacation in Japan earlier this month and was told before leaving that he would be considered for reappointment. He said he was informed of the governor's decision when he returned to work Monday.

"The (reason) why was never really told to me directly," he said. "I should've asked. I did not. The governor did indicate that she had a change of plans and I didn't fit into the plans."

Haraga said he is leaving on good terms.

"It's OK," he said. "She has tough decisions to make as far as the future of her administration, and we'll just proceed accordingly."

At her news conference, Lingle repeatedly said that both Haraga and Befitel had decided to pursue other interests and that they parted on good terms.

Befitel confirmed that he was leaving to pursue a job in the private sector.

"It was a difficult decision to not serve a second term, but I think it's the right decision for me and my family," Befitel said.

All of Lingle's Cabinet appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Sen. J. Kalani English, incoming chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he has a good working relationship with Fukunaga, who has testified numerous times before lawmakers on issues related to state harbors.

English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said he is hopeful that the new director is more forthcoming with information, saying Haraga typically would release information to the media before giving it to lawmakers.

"General courtesy is to tell the Legislature before you make your announcement," English said. "It's just a matter of style, and we hope that Barry works closely with us."

As head of the Transportation Department, Haraga was among the more visible members of Lingle's Cabinet, overseeing the agency in charge of highways, airports and harbors.

The agency typically grabs the lion's share of funds in the state's capital improvements project budget and was front and center during transportation emergencies such as mudslides that closed several lanes of Pali Highway last month and the damage of a pedestrian walkway above the H-1 freeway in September that forced the closure of the roadway for hours and snarled traffic during the afternoon commute.

Haraga said he is proud of his accomplishments, noting that it was always his goal to get accurate information out to the public as quickly as possible.

"What we set out to do was make us a public service agency," he said, adding that he now will pursue a private-sector job or perhaps consider a job in politics.

Fukunaga acknowledged the work Haraga had done.

"It's a department that really, I believe, touches the lives of many, if not all, of our citizens," Fukunaga said. "He (Haraga) established a lot of programs, a lot of projects, that we need to pursue."

NOMINEE KNOWS HARBORS AND AIRPORTS

A look at Barry Fukunaga, incoming director of the state Department of Transportation, subject to state Senate confirmation:

Current job: Deputy director in charge of harbors, state Department of Transportation (appointed October 2004)

Education: Master's degree in public administration, bachelor's degree in business administration, University of Hawaii

Previous experience: Director of the Department of Enterprise Services for the City and County of Honolulu; deputy director of the city's Department of Environmental Services. Served in various capacities for 25 years with the state Department of Transportation, Airports Division, including airports manager, airports operations manager and airports services supervisor.

Source: Office of the Governor

GOV. LINDA LINGLE'S CABINET APPOINTEES
Attorney general: Mark Bennett
Budget and Finance: Georgina Kawamura
State comptroller: Russ Saito
Agriculture: Sandra Lee Kunimoto
Business, Economic Development and Tourism: Ted Liu
Commerce and Consumer Affairs: Mark Recktenwald
State adjutant general: Maj. Gen. Robert Lee
Hawaiian Home Lands: Micah Kane
Health: Dr. Chiyome Fukino
Human Resources Development: Marie Laderta
Human Services: Lillian Koller
Land and Natural Resources: Peter Young
Public Safety: Iwalani White
Taxation: Kurt Kawafuchi
Transportation: Barry Fukunaga
Labor and Industrial Relations: TBA

CAPITOL OFFICE TEAM
These other appointments do not require Senate confirmation:
Chief of staff: Bob Awana
Senior adviser, policy: Linda Smith
Senior adviser, communications: Lenny Klompus
State tourism liaison: Marsha Wienert

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Original article: http://starbulletin.com/print/2005.php?fr=/2006/12/21/news/story02.html

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