Gov’s cabinet shuffle par for the course
Two of the governor's first-term cabinet members won't be reappointed.
AS she begins her second term, Gov. Linda Lingle's decision to shuffle or replace members of her cabinet
should not be surprising. Nor should a department head's departure be unexpected. So Lingle's announcement that Transportation Director Rod Haraga and Labor Director Nelson Befitel would leaving their jobs appeared to be a routine event.
Even the reason for their exit -- to pursue other opportunities -- was standard in government circles.
But it turned out that Haraga didn't so much as quit as he was shown the door.
Before taking a vacation to Japan earlier this month, Haraga said Lingle told him she was considering him for reappointment, but when he returned, she had changed her mind.
This, of course, is the governor's prerogative, which Haraga duly acknowledged.
The veteran public works engineer, who spent much of his working career in Los Angeles, managed a sprawling agency that is responsible for Hawaii's highways, harbors and airports. The department commands a big chunk of the state's budget -- more than $600 million for operations proposed for the next fiscal year and $513 million for capital improvements.
As its chief, Haraga captured a lot of headlines and face time on television, not only during emergencies, such as when mudslides shut down the Pali Highway, but in public service announcements as he sought to convert the agency into one that was more open and informative than in previous administrations.
At least one state lawmaker found this annoying. Sen. J. Kalani English told the Star-Bulletin's B.J. Reyes that Haraga's habit of releasing information to the media ahead of telling legislators didn't sit well with him, as if putting the public's interests before a politician's was a grave transgression.
Befitel's leaving appears to have been a mutual decision. A longtime friend of Lingle's, the labor director's recent marriage makes a change in career a credible move.
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