It’s official: Senate President Shan Tsutsui is Hawaii’s 12th Lieutenant Governor effective immediately.
The Maui native replaces Hawaii’s former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who was sworn in as the state’s newest U.S. Senator on Thursday in a ceremony in Washington D.C.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie named Schatz as the replacement for U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, who died December 17. Under Hawaii law, the Senate President has the choice as to whether to become lieutenant governor.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie made the announcement about Tsutsui’s acceptance of the position from his chambers on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
“Shan’s acceptance reflects this administration’s commitment to represent all the people of Hawaii as a statewide community, not one that is Oahu-centric,” said Abercrombie.
“As demonstrated during his time in the Legislature and most recently as Senate President, Shan is extremely effective in bringing various parties together to benefit all the people of Hawaii.”
Tsutsui, 41, was Hawaii’s youngest ever Senate president and the first from Maui. The Democrat, who led the Senate judiciously with grace and fairness, has served in the legislature for 10 years since 2002. At the announcement today, he was joined by his wife, Lyndelle Lee Tsutsui, and three daughters, Mikayla, Kaylee and Kenna.
Tsutsui said he was at first hesitant to accept the position, but after speaking with his family, the governor and his Senate colleagues, he agreed to take the job.
“The decision to leave the state Senate was not a choice I made lightly, but I am eager to make a meaningful contribution to the future of Hawaii as Lt. Governor,” Tsutsui said.
“There is much work to be done in the Senate, but I have full confidence in my colleagues at the Legislature. I look forward to working with them this session in my new role.”
Abercrombie said they will establish a branch of the Office of the Lt. Governor on Maui, while also continuing to operate the Lt. governor’s office just across from his on the 5th floor of the State Capitol in Honolulu.
“In the past, Neighbor Island elected officials might have thought they had to move to Honolulu in order to serve,” Abercrombie said. “In my view, this may no longer be necessary, especially as technology brings us closer together and the state’s IT transformation plan affords greater opportunities to conduct state business from all islands.”
Tsutsui brings a background in business and economics to the position. Tsutsui is a 1989 graduate of Maui High School and a 1994 graduate of the University of Hawaii where he earned a BA in economics. He previously served as Vice Chair of Ways and Means and Majority Caucus Leader.
Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, D-Moanalua, replaces Tsutsui as Senate President temporarily.
She said today:
“While we are sad to see President Shan Tsutsui leave the Senate, we are happy that he has agreed to accept the position of Lieutenant Governor and we look forward to working with him,” said Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim.
“The members of the Senate will meet in the next few days to discuss who will fill the Senate President’s position.”