Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Transportation, Labor chiefs on way out of Lingle's Cabinet

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

Rod Haraga

spacer spacer

Nelson Befitel

spacer spacer

Barry Fukunaga has been appointed state Transportation Director, Gov. Linda Lingle announced yesterday.

He replaces current DOT director Rod Haraga, who will leave the job Jan. 3.

Haraga said yesterday that he had been on vacation when the governor decided to replace him, and he learned the news when he returned to work on Monday.

"She decided I wouldn't fit in with her plans," Haraga said. "I'm disappointed. I would have liked to have stayed on for another four years."

Haraga said he was not given a reason for the governor's decision. "When the governor makes up her mind, you have to respect her for whatever the reason is," he said.

Cabinet members must be confirmed at the beginning of every four-year gubernatorial term.

Fukunaga is the only new appointee among Lingle's Cabinet members, although the governor said that Nelson Befitel, director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, will remain in the post only until she names a replacement.

Lingle would not elaborate on why Befitel and Haraga will not remain in their posts, saying simply, "Both of them made decisions to pursue other options."

Befitel, 41, said he declined the governor's offer of a second four-year term "to pursue other endeavors in the private sector."

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have served on Gov. Lingle's team and have the highest admiration for her," said Befitel, a newlywed who is considering either a return to practicing law or using the experience he gained from managing 600 employees in the business sector.

"I believe we made many improvements at the Department of Labor and I'm very proud of our accomplishments and record over the past four years," added Befitel, who said a major accomplishment was improving relations between labor unions and the business community.

Haraga said he would probably return to the private sector, but could explore political opportunities. "It opens up everything, and I'm going to take a good hard look and kind of plan my future," he said.

When asked, the governor said she was happy with Haraga's work.

Fukunaga is currently deputy director of DOT's Harbors Division.

The rest of Lingle's Cabinet will remain intact pending confirmation from the state Senate.

Staff writer Rod Ohira contributed to this report.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.