New Agriculture Leader Selected After Short Search

HONOLULU — A state organization that oversees thousands of acres of prime agricultural land and millions in income from agricultural leases spent just a little over a week in a low-key search for a new leader.

In the end, there was only one choice for the future of Hawaii’s agribusiness.

Starting in January, Jimmy Nakatani will lead the Agribusiness Development Corp., a state organization that provides water, land and infrastructure resources for island farmers.

“What we’re trying to do is protect land and water, so people have the ability to farm,” said ADC board member David Rietow.

The important group also provides resources for innovative agricultural projects and connects those growing crops with state lawmakers.

It is an important industry, so some might think there would have been many candidates wanting to fill the key leadership role.

But there was only one candidate — Mr. Nakatani.

“Having only one candidate and no other choices is a problem for me,” said Rietow.

No other candidates came forward during the time the job was posted. But there were no listings in the statewide newspaper or any press releases announcing the vacancy. The job was only listed on the Department of Agriculture website for just over a week.

“It was nine days, and the legal requirement was six. So we did extend it beyond the legal limit,” said Department of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun.

But the outgoing executive director, Alfredo Lee, said when he applied, the process took months and involved interviews with a number of candidates.

Lee, who led the ADC for 11 years, said he resigned last month only because he was forced out. The reason was the board wanted someone else.

“You’re looking for catalytic leadership from an executive director, and the consensus opinion with everyone I spoke to was that was not happening. So it was time for a change,” said board chairman Scott Enright.

Some members of the board said the change had to happen before the start of the legislative session in January.

But others felt this was a rush job to fill a very important job in agriculture.

“In the end, if we got 4-5 candidates, Jimmy could have been the top candidate. But we don’t know and we’ll never know,” said Rietow.

Board members said Nakatani’s past experience got him the job, but keeping it depends on his future performance. There are a number of initiatives and big expectations from the ADC for 2012.

New Agriculture Leader Selected After Short Search – Honolulu News Story – KITV Honolulu

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