HONOLULU — Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui said Monday he would resign this week to join a lobbying and public affairs firm. The move comes several years after Tsutsui publicly complained the governor hadn’t given him enough responsibility, but he said his decision had nothing to do with that.
Tsutsui, a Democrat, previously said he did not plan to run for re-election. His resignation is effective Wednesday.
The Senate president is next in line for the job, which pays an annual salary of nearly $152,000. But Senate President Ronald Kouchi said he’s not interested.
The House speaker has the next spot in the line of succession. House Speaker Scott Saiki hasn’t commented.
Tsutsui said there’s never a perfect time to leave office, but he’s been given a new job opportunity and a chance to spend more time on his home island of Maui.
Plus, he said the governor has sent his budget and legislative package to lawmakers.
Tsutsui’s own two initiatives — on after-school programs and bringing Hawaii-grown food to public school cafeterias — also are in the Legislature’s hands, he said.
He said he realized when taking his oldest daughter to college in September how much he was missing from his children’s childhoods by being in elected office and spending so much time on Oahu instead of Maui. He has two other daughters, ages 14 and 10.
“The challenges of living on one island and working on another one kind of takes its toll on the family a little. I have an opportunity now to kind of fix some of that,” he said during an interview.
Tsutsui became lieutenant governor in 2012, when then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed his own lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye died.
Tsutsui was Senate president at the time. He represented central Maui in the state Senate.
Under Abercrombie, Tsutsui led a sports development initiative and had a seat at top strategy meetings.
Tsutsui was re-elected in 2014 to a four-year term when David Ige, a Democrat, was elected governor.
However, Tsutsui told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2015 that he wasn’t nearly as involved in Ige’s administration as he was when he served under Abercrombie, also a Democrat.
“I was involved in more strategic meetings; I was always involved in those things under the previous administration,” Tsutsui said. “Under this administration, probably not so much.”
Lieutenant governors have little power in Hawaii unless afforded it by the governor. The main role is to take over if the governor becomes incapable of doing the job.
Ige praised Tsutsui’s work as lieutenant governor and said the news left him with a “mixture of sadness and gratitude.”
“He has dedicated the last 15 years to serving the people of Hawaii,” the governor said in a statement.
Tsutsui said the missile alert mistakenly sent to cellphones and broadcast stations earlier this month by a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee was unrelated to his decision.
Tsutsui will serve as senior vice president at Strategies 360, a firm that has offices in Hawaii, 11 other western states and Washington, D.C.