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Ige appoints Hashimoto to serve remainder of Souki’s House term

Appointment follows Souki’s resignation in late March over sexual harassment charges

TROY HASHIMOTO, Set to serve 8th House District

Gov. David Ige appointed Troy Hashimoto to fill the state House seat of former Speaker Joe Souki on Tuesday.

It will be the first time in nearly 40 years that Central Maui residents will be represented by a new face in Honolulu.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Hashimoto said Tuesday. “I’ve been talking to a lot of folks. I’m very excited to represent District 8.”

Hashimoto’s first stint as a politician comes after serving as executive assistant to Maui County Council Chairman Mike White since 2011. He is scheduled to be sworn into office this afternoon at the state Capitol.

Ige selected Hashimoto over former Maui County Council Member Dain Kane and attorney Joe Wildman. The three names had initially been chosen by a 21-member council from the district’s party. Members of the group heard from eight candidates vying for the position.

Ige is required by law to make his selection from a list of three nominees submitted to him by the party.

“Troy will bring energy and passion to representing District 8 on Maui,” Ige said in a statement. “He has a keen understanding of the issues that are most important to his community and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in the Hawaii State Legislature.”

Hashimoto’s appointment follows Souki’s resignation in late March, which was part of a settlement of sexual harassment charges brought against him before the Hawaii Ethics Commission. Souki paid a $5,000 fine, issued a public apology in a letter to House Speaker Scott Saiki and is barred from seeking public office for at least two years.

Hashimoto said he was “humbled by the support and confidence” from his party and the governor. He said the closest he has come to running for office was for the state Board of Education as a senior in high school.

“This is definitely a different realm, but I have a little experience working in the political arena,” he said. “I think this is an important position and you have an ability to do a lot of good in political office, but it comes with a heavy responsibility. I will take that with me as I move along and make sure we make the right decisions to make positive change in our community.”

Hashimoto previously served as Maui County Democratic Party chairman from 2013 to 2017. He is chairman of the board of directors of Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Program, which offers leadership training for young people on Maui.

He graduated cum laude with a Master’s of Business Administration degree from the University of Denver in Colorado and was valedictorian of his King Kekaulike High School class of 2005. He also worked as a recruitment coordinator for the University of Hawaii Maui College and owns TNH Productions, a multimedia organization.

Souki said Hashimoto called him after he was selected Tuesday and the two talked over lunch. Souki noted that he was impressed by Hashimoto’s resume and helped explain what to expect at the state Legislature.

“I think he’s a fine man, and he will do well in the interim,” Souki said. “He has a good history of working for the Democratic Party and his educational background is excellent. I think he’s well adapted to be a good representative of the 8th District.”

Among the first tasks Hashimoto plans to take on is meeting with the Maui delegation to see what role he can play in the legislative session that ends May 3. Major issues in his district include securing funding for Maui Memorial Medical Center, Waihee Elementary School and Iao Valley State Monument.

“I have frankly really big shoes to fill,” Hashimoto said. “He (Souki) served with distinction for many years and delivered a lot of important things on Maui that have made our lives a lot better. I’m going to have to work to do my part as well.”

White said his former chief of staff is a “great guy” and “very deserving” of the appointment. He said his office will have to “scramble a little bit” with Hashimoto’s departure in the middle of the county’s budget session, but everyone is “very happy for him.”

“He’s sharp, diligent and probably one of the most hardworking people I’ve worked with in my many years” on the council, White said. “I think he’s going to be a great addition to the House of Representatives, and he’s capable of handling any job he’s given no matter how complex.”

Hashimoto said he plans to bring his experience working for White and the county to his state office. Many times residents do not know what the county and state provide, he said.

“I’ll take a holistic approach,” he said. “What is best for the community? The good thing coming from the county is I actually know both sides and, at the end of the day, what is it going to do for residents.”

He said the reason he applied for the position was to help residents born and raised on the island to afford a home and continue living in the county. He said many of his classmates have moved to the Mainland.

“A lot of families come from immigrants, and they all sacrificed to give us a better life,” he said. “But when I look around, life seems to be getting harder than easier. I wanted to be part of that change. The investment I make now, I’m going to have to live with so I better make some really good changes to ensure our future is better.”

Souki said he looks forward to seeing Hashimoto in office.

“To get somebody new doesn’t hurt,” he said. “We’ll see how he does. No one alone can do anything by themselves. It’s a collected effort in the Legislature, so he’ll have to go through his learning experience, but he’s going to get a great head start in a short period of time. He’s got to still run for that seat, though, and sometimes it puts you at a disadvantage because they’ll (other candidates) be sign-waiving while you’re in office.”

Hashimoto said he will run for his seat in the August primary and acknowledged that his appointment might give him a slight edge in his race. Central Maui Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran and Rep. Justin Woodson were the last Maui County appointees in 2013, and they went on to win their seats outright the following year.

“I think it gives me a slight advantage being appointed, but the August primary is right around corner,” Hashimoto said. “I think it gives me a sense of obligation to go out and show that I was the right choice.

“I never take anything for granted, and I owe it to the residents of District 8 to get to know them. It’ll be an exciting next couple months, but I’m definitely up to the task.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.