Russell Kokubun, the director of the state Department of Agriculture, is retiring at the end of the year.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie had tapped Kokubun, a former Big Island state senator and Hawaii County Councilman, to lead to the department shortly after the governor was elected in 2010.
“I wish to extend my aloha and appreciation to Chair Kokubun, who has informed me of his decision to retire at the end of the year and return to his family farm in Volcano on Hawaii Island,” Abercrombie said in a statement.
“As a former legislator and farmer, Russell brought a unique perspective to the position and has helped to move Hawaii’s agriculture and sustainability initiatives forward. This has included support for farmers and new farm innovation, promoting locally grown food, and investing in a solid agricultural infrastructure. I wish Russell the very best as he follows his heart home to the Big Island to work the land and provide for his family and community.”
Kokubun is an ally of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and will likely help her with her Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate, according to sources close to Hanabusa.
Kokubun is not expected to take a paid role with the campaign, but could help with organization on the Big Island, sources say.
Kokubun was state Senate vice president when Hanabusa served as state Senate president.
Hanabusa is challenging U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the primary to fill out the remainder of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's six-year term, which runs through 2016.
Abercrombie appointed Schatz over Hanabusa to replace Inouye after the senator died last December.
Here is Kokubun's message to staff:
First, mahalo nui loa for the wonderful experience of working with all of you to further agriculture in Hawaii Nei. You have demonstrated your professionalism time and again in your commitment to your work for all the people in our community. It hasn't always been easy but you have persevered to accept all challenges and fulfill the mission for this department in ways that have truly astounded me. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to better understand your work within the diverse programs that have and will continue to have positive effects on our entire community. I am very confident that you all will lead the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to greater prominence in the future.
I will retire at the end of December as Chair of the Board of Agriculture to return to our family farm in Volcano on Hawaii Island. While still able to bend over and pull weeds, I will have the opportunity to put into practice the policies about agriculture and sustainability that I have advocated for as a legislator and administrator for the past 29 years. This will allow me to complete my career cycle by returning to the farm and feeding family and community. This has always been my dream.
With my greatest respect and appreciation and warmest aloha.