Hawaii veteran a finalist for honor
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kapolei resident Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, a former state legislator and Iraq veteran with the Hawai'i National Guard, has been selected as one of 30 finalists for a White House Fellowship.
Only four Hawai'i residents, including Mayor Mufi Hannemann, have been selected as White House fellows since President Lyndon Johnson established the program in 1964. It is one of the nation's most prestigious programs for leadership and public service.
Eleven to 19 fellows are expected to be selected in June. Tamayo is the only finalist from Hawai'i. About 700 people applied nationally.
"The caliber of applicants are all outstanding and extremely impressive people from so many different lines of work," said Tamayo, one of three regional finalists from Hawai'i interviewed in San Francisco. "They were all very humble and very service-oriented."
Those chosen typically spend a year working as a full-time, paid fellow to senior White House staff, Cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking government officials, the White House website says.
Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with leaders from the private and public sectors, and trips to view U.S. policy in action domestically and internationally.
In addition to Hannemann, other Hawai'i fellows are Adm. Patrick Walsh, law professor Melvin Masuda and Ray Jefferson, assistant U.S. secretary for Veterans Employment and Training,
Tamayo, 29, is a first lieutenant with the Hawai'i Army National Guard and has served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She is vice president of Healthy Hawaii Coalition, a nonprofit environmental education group and was a state House representative from 2002 to 2004. She chose to not seek re-election when her unit, the 29th Brigade Combat Team, was called up to Iraq.
She is the daughter of state Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele).
"If you'd asked me five years ago where I'd be in five years, I would not have painted the picture that has come to be," Tamayo said. "So I would tell you in five years, absolutely, in public service. That's my focus."
Kurt Fevella, an 'Ewa Neighborhood Board member, said he's not surprised that Tamayo was selected. For the short time she served as the area's representative she was always responsive to the community, never shirking responsibility or blaming others for shortfalls, Fevella said.
"I don't want to say make a better person great because she's a great person already," Fevella said. "She's a diamond in the rough so I guess by having her be polished even more the diamond would be more sparkly."
State House Speaker Calvin Say said, "I'd be very honored and proud if she is selected to represent the state of Hawai'i and the United States."