Gov. Josh Green has tapped two of the most experienced lawmakers in the state House to work in his administration, a move that also gives him the opportunity to appoint their replacements.
The new administration announced in a written statement Thursday that longtime state Rep. Ryan Yamane, who has been serving as chairman of the House Health, Human Services and Homelessness Committee, will now become the new deputy director of the state Department of Human Resources Development.
He is expected to resign from the House on Tuesday and will begin his new job the following day, according to the governor’s office.
Green also appointed veteran Kauai state Rep. James Tokioka to serve as deputy director for the airports division of the state Department of Transportation. Tokioka is scheduled to resign from the Legislature on Monday, and start with DOT on Tuesday.
Green will then have 60 days to appoint their replacements. Democratic Party officials will nominate three candidates from each of their districts and forward those names to Green for his consideration.
Yamane, who represents Mililani, said former Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor and former state Rep. Charlotte Nekota are both interested in being appointed to the House seat Yamane is vacating. Menor held a seat on the city council from 2012 to 2020, and previously served in both the state House and Senate.
Yamane has worked on a variety of issues in his 18 years in the Legislature, and led the health and human services committee through much of the pandemic. “I’ve done policy, and then now with this opportunity with Gov. Green, to actually put action into policy, I felt this is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, since it was offered,” Yamane said.
DHRD is often criticized for moving too slowly to recruit and hire state workers, and the statement from the governor’s office said Yamane, 53, “will ensure the improvement of the hiring process to expeditiously fill vacancies with dedicated individuals.”
Tokioka, 61, said he was selected to lead the DOT’s airports division because of his two decades of experience in the hotel industry.
“The governor and (newly appointed DOT Director) Ed Sniffen wanted to utilize my hospitality experience to make the airport a destination where locals and visitors experience the best thing that we can possibly offer for our destination for all the major airports in Hawaii,” Tokioka said.
Tokioka started as a busboy on Kauai, and moved up over the years to become general manager of hotels in mainland cities that included San Francisco, Long Beach and San Diego.
He was elected as a Republican to the Kauai County Council in 1996, switched parties four years later, and then moved to the state House in 2006 where he has held office ever since.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity. There’s a lot of great people out here that work really hard to make travel safe for everybody, and I’m really proud to be a part of the team,” he said.
The governor’s office also announced several other appointments including:
— Tia Roberts Hartsock, was named the first state director of the Office of Wellness and Resilience, which was created by the state Legislature this year. Hartsock previously served as project director of a federal Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration initiative called Data to Wisdom within the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division of the state Department of Health.
She helped in that role to develop and provide mental health services for adolescent female trauma survivors involved in the juvenile justice, mental health or child welfare systems and has more than 20 years of experience in mental health and criminal justice systems.
— Mark Glick, who previously served as administrator of the Hawaii State Energy Office, was named the new state energy officer, and Doug Murdock was reappointed as the state’s chief information officer.
— Morris Atta will continue as deputy to the chair for the state Department of Agriculture; and Meoh-Leng Silliman will continue as deputy comptroller for the Department of Accounting and General Services, or DAGS, according to the announcement.