Governor Ige Names Two Deputy Directors

Gov. David Ige has appointed Laurel Johnston to serve as deputy director of the Department of Budget and Finance. Johnston leaves her post as the governor’s deputy chief of staff to fill the position that has been vacant since mid-November when Rod Becker was appointed to serve as the state comptroller.

Laurel Johnston to serve as deputy director of the Department of Budget and Finance

During her 30-year career in Hawaiʻi, Johnston has served as a public administrator, researcher, and writer in the diverse policy areas of education and health, criminal and social justice, economic development, and public finance. Prior to joining Gov. Ige’s staff she was the director of the University of Hawaiʻi System Budget Office. She earned a Master of Science degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology, both from Florida State University.

Johnston’s appointment is effective Dec. 16 and is subject to confirmation by the Hawaiʻi State Senate during the next regular session.

“Budget and finance is a critical department, and I asked Laurel to take on this new role because she has a deep understanding of the state’s core functions and the budgeting process. She has the experience and skills to challenge the way things have been done in the past and chart new paths to long-term financial stability,” said Gov. Ige.

“I appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve Gov. Ige and thank him and Director Machida for the trust they have in me to assist in managing our state’s fiscal resources. The governor and I agree that the executive budget is our state’s primary public policy document, and we will work collaboratively with the legislative branch to shape a budget that sets the state’s course over the next two years,” said Johnston.

Gov. Ige also named Ryker Wada to be the deputy director of the Department of Human Resources Development. He will replace Cindy Inouye who is retiring after a distinguished career in state government.

Ryker Wada to be the deputy director of the Department of Human Resources Development

Wada currently serves as the Certificated Personnel Regional Officer for the Windward District of the Department of Education (DOE) where he is responsible for human resources and labor relations. Before joining the DOE, he served as the Managing Attorney for the Honolulu Office of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i. Wada earned a B.A. from the University of Washington and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Wada’s appointment is effective Jan. 3 and is not subject to confirmation by the Hawaiʻi State Senate.

“I thank Cindy Inouye for her diligent service to the state. She has been a true advocate for state employees and has ensured that the people of Hawaiʻi have been well served. I wish her the best,” said Gov. Ige.

“Ryker has experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government with a particular emphasis on human resources and labor relations. He will be an asset to the human resources development team as it creates a culture of innovation and explores fresh ways to recruit and support state employees,” said Gov. Ige.

“It is an honor and privilege to be considered for this position. I welcome the opportunity to assist Gov. Ige and Director Nishimoto in service to our community,” said Wada.

Hawaii-Based Media Accelerator Wraps First Feature Film, “Jo – The Medicine Runner,” Starring Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and its attached agency, the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), applauds the GVS Transmedia Accelerator Program on its announcement that private investors have funded one of their graduates, a feature film project. The film, “Jo – The Medicine Runner,” is currently being shot, edited and produced entirely on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Producer David L Cunningham with Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel striking a pose for Instagram.

Launched in 2014, the GVS Transmedia Accelerator Program, Hawaii’s only film and creative media accelerator, is a public-private partnership between GVS, HSDC‘s HI Growth Initiative, the County of Hawaii and private investors.

The independent feature film wrapped principal photography in November after shooting in Kona, Hawaii. The production, helmed by David L. Cunningham (“To End All Wars”) with producer Edwin Marshall (“After.Life”), is set in the Kona coffee belt of Hawaii’s segregated 1920’s plantation era. Jo, a homeless orphan of mixed race, is taken in by a doctor and newcomer to town, played by Oscar-nominated Matt Dillon (“Crash”). Ryan Potter (“Big Hero 6”) plays Jo, who competes for the love of the plantation owner’s daughter against rival doctor Reyes played by Jim Caviezel (“Person of Interest”).

“Jo — The Medicine Runner,” is the second project to reach production out of a slate of Hawaii-based feature films and TV projects coming out of the GVS Accelerator. Earlier this year, the comedy series, “Surf Break Hotel,” set on Maui, raised funds from private investors to produce a pilot episode. Writer-director Stefan Schaefer teamed up with longtime friend Jonathan Stern, an Emmy-winning producer on the pilot.

“We are committed to helping Hawaii’s creative media startups achieve success in the commercial marketplace,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “Supporting entrepreneurs in the film and media industry is an important part of building a creative innovation sector that generates new job opportunities needed here in Hawaii.”

Projects incubated by GVS are put through a year-long program, beginning with an intensive six-month-long acceleration period. The balance of the year is used to raise the private capital needed to execute their projects. To date, GVS has reviewed more than 200 applications in two years for a total of 12 slots. GVS was recently recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the nation’s leading innovators by the U.S. Small Business Administration and is led by Cunningham, who is based in Kona.

“Hawaii has the potential to be a thriving film hub,” said Cunningham. “It has 11 of the 13 climate zones for every type of look and growing local crews and facilities. This project has put to work dozens of local people, giving them opportunities to work on a Hollywood-level film in high level production positions. We are thrilled that ‘Jo’ demonstrates the viability of homegrown Hawaii filmmaking.”

United Talent Agency’s Independent division packaged the film and represents sales.   The film’s Casting Director is Beverly Holloway. Christian Parkes wrote the original material, which Cunningham adapted for Hawaii.

The GVS Transmedia Accelerator Program,  together with the state’s Creative Lab Hawaii Program, develops creative entrepreneurs and helps them launch their businesses. Combined with two broadband facilities outfitted with state-of-the-art multi-gigabit connectivity provided by GVS Connect, these programs help to create new possibilities for Hawaii as a strategic base for global film production.

HDSC President Karl Fooks explained:  “The State’s HI Growth program supports accelerators, entrepreneurial events and investment funds – all critical pieces of a startup ecosystem that enables Hawaii entrepreneurs to be successful.”

ABOUT HSDC (Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation)

HSDC is a state agency, attached to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), which promotes economic development and economic diversification in Hawaii through a return-driven investment program in partnership with private capital. HSDC runs the HI Growth Initiative, which is the state’s effort to catalyze and support an entrepreneurial, innovation-focused ecosystem. The program supports entrepreneurial development through events, venture accelerator programs and investment funds targeted at Hawaii companies.

ABOUT DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

Ohia Quarantine Rules Become Permanent

Administrative rules prohibiting the movement of ohia and soil from Hawaii Island became permanent last week. The rules impose permanent quarantine restrictions on the intrastate movement on ohia and other material that may spread rapid ohia death (ROD), also known as ohia wilt, which is destroying the native ohia forests on Hawaii Island. These permanent rules replace the emergency interim rules established in August 2015. To date, the disease has only been detected on Hawaii Island.

The permanent rules restrict the movement of the following from Hawaii Island:

  • Ohia plants,
  • Ohia plant parts including: flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch greenwaste and frass (sawdust from boring insects, such as beetles); and
  • Soil

Movement of ohia material and soil from Hawaii Island requires inspection and a permit issued by the Plant Quarantine Branch of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Testing and quarantine of some items may be required. Shippers may contact the Plant Quarantine offices in Hilo at
808-961-9393 or Kona at 808-326-1077 for more information.


Any person who violates the rule may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100. The maximum fine is $10,000. For a second offense committed within five years of a prior conviction under this rule, the person or organization shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $25,000.

ROD is a deadly fungus that is killing ohia trees in East, West and South Hawaii Island. ROD was first noticed in 2010 in Puna. In 2014, the fungus was identified as Ceratocystis fimbriata by researchers at the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Daniel K. Inouye Agricultural Research Service. In 2014, it was estimated that the disease covered approximately 6,000 acres from Kalapana to Hilo and exhibited tree mortality rates of more than 50 percent. Currently, it is estimated to infest about 50,000 across Hawaii Island. It is not known how the disease entered the state or where it came from.

Public hearings on the proposed permanent rules were held statewide earlier this year. The Hawaii Board of Agriculture approved the permanent rules on Oct. 18 and the rules were sent to the Lt. Governor’s office on Nov. 17, becoming effective on Nov. 27. The administrative rule may be viewed at:


More information on ROD may be found at:

HDOA website:

University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources website:

Black Arm Band to Perform “Dirtsong” at UH Hilo

A musical presentation celebrating the past and revolutionizing the future of Indigenous Australia will take place when Black Arm Band performs “Dirtsong” at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Performing Arts Center on Friday, January 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Black Arm Band, a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI), is led by some of Australia’s foremost indigenous artists, including Emma Donovan, Fred Leone, Mark Atkins and Deline Briscoe, alongside Executive Producer Elizabeth Woollacott. Considered one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies, they have been widely acclaimed in Australia and internationally.

At the heart of their work is the group’s relationship with indigenous communities from which they draw inspiration. Their musical tradition and presentation is forged from over 40,000 years of living culture, infused with contemporary styles adopted as their own by Aboriginal Australia.

Tickets are reserved seating and priced at $30 General, $25 Discount and $15 UH Hilo/Hawai `i CC students (with a valid student ID) and children, up to age 17 pre-sale, or $35, $30 and $20 at the door.

Tickets are available by calling the UH Hilo Box Office at 932-7490 or ordering online at

Big Island Police Searching for Missing 15-Year-Old Honoka’a Boy

12/13/2016 UPDATE: Hawaiʻi Island police have located 15-year-old Kelson Pedro of Honokaʻa, who was reported missing.  He was found Monday (December 12) in the Āhualoa area.

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 15-year-old Honokaʻa boy who was reported missing.

Kelson Pedro

Kelson Pedro was last seen in Honokaʻa on December 7.

He is described as 4-foot-10 to 5-feet tall, about 90 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair. He was last seen wearing black pants and black-and-white shoes and carrying a gray backpack.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300. Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Big Island Police Searching for Missing 28-Year-Old Keaau Woman

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 28-year-old Keaʻau woman who was reported missing.

Crystal Lynn Cabanatan

Crystal Lynn Cabanatan was last seen on November 24 in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in Keaʻau.

She is described as a “local female,” 5-foot-4, 180 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Cabanatan is also wanted on an outstanding bench warrant for failure to appear.

Police ask anyone with any information on her whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union Donates $23k+ to Hawaii Food Basket

Through the heart-felt efforts of the Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) staff, and the generosity of HCFCU members and local small businesses, more than $23,000 was raised and donated to The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s Food Bank,  during HCFCU’s annual “Market Days” events.

Top Row: L-R: Back Row: Davelynn Esperanza – HCFCU Kaloko Branch Member Service Specialist, Robyn Naihe – HCFCU Support Services Coordinator, Flora Gomes – HCFCU Senior Dealer Center Officer, Kristy Akao – HCFCU Youth Services Coordinator.
Middle Row: Lorrie Gomes – HCFCU Kailua Branch Senior Teller: Sue Miskowic – HCFCU Administrative Specialist, Jecoliah Pacatang – HCFCU Kailua Branch Teller II.
Front Row: David Miyashita – HCFCU Marketing Coordinator, Rosette Freitas, HCFCU Kealakekua Branch Loan Processor II , En Young – The Food Basket Executive Director, Jason Ayers – HCFCU Asst. Vice President & Loan manager.

Held annually in October at all HCFCU branches, Market Days is a multilevel event during which businesses are invited to sell such items as baked goods, food, clothing, jewelry and home products, donate produce to sell, and provide valuable items for silent auctions. Additionally, HCFCU employees held work lunch fundraisers and sold ribbons to raise additional monies for The Food Basket.  All event proceeds were donated to The Food Basket.

David Miyashita, HCFCU’s Marketing Coordinator, spearheaded the events, which included leading branch and department team captains, supervising the various vendors and activities, and keeping HCFCU’s mission of feeding Hawaii County’s hungry a top priority.

“I am extremely proud of David and the entire HCFCU staff!” said Tricia Buskirk, credit union President and CEO. “Our annual Market Days are successful because our employees are committed to supporting The Food Basket.  Our members, businesses and community have huge hearts and are always there to support our families in need.”


The employees of HCFCU collectively nominate and vote on a “Triennial Social Responsibility Partner” to which they focus their Market Day fundraising for three years, making a true difference for the organization.  With their enthusiastic dedication to that one organization during that time, the organization experiences additional supportive hearts and hands, which in turn helps make a true impact for many on Hawaii Island.

This is HCFCU’s second of three years supporting The Food Basket and last year’s Market Days event generated a $20,000 donation.  Answering the need for their critically needed services, The Food Basket just opened a new Kona facility located within the Ulu Wini Housing Project.  Contact to learn more about supporting The Food Basket.

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by its over 40,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala.  In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services and youth programs, and supports numerous Hawaii Island programs and events.  Membership in Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is open to all Hawaii Island residents.

Kona Attorneys Recognized for Volunteer Service to the West Hawaii Community

Thirty-seven attorneys were recognized for their volunteer service on December 9, at the Kona Courthouse (Keakealani Building) in Kealakekua.  This group of volunteer attorneys provided free legal information to more than 500 West Hawaii residents who visited the Self-Help Desk at the Kona Courthouse in 2016.  The number of people who sought and received services at the Kona Self-Help Desk increased by more than 200 from 2015 to 2016.

Local attorneys were recognized for their volunteer service to the West Hawaii community during the Kona Self-Help Desk Recognition Awards at the Kona Courthouse on December 9, 2016. The attorneys provided free legal information to more than 500 West Hawaii residents who visited the Kona Self-Help Desk in 2016.

The Kona Self-Help Desk was established in October 2013 as part of the Hawaii State Judiciary’s commitment to increasing access to justice in the courts.  Since opening, the Self-Help Desk has assisted more than 1,450 people, with volunteer attorneys providing approximately 600 hours of legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce.  These services have been provided at almost no cost to the state.

“I am grateful for the commitment from the West Hawaii Bar and all the volunteer attorneys who generously give of their time and expertise.  This partnership has been essential to advancing our goal of ensuring that all Hawaii residents have access to justice,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.  “We are looking forward to being able to expand these services once the Kona Judiciary Complex is completed in 2019 with a newly designed space for the Self-Help Center.”

The individual attorneys who were honored are as follows:  James Biven, Joanna Sokolow, Kimberly Taniyama, Fred Giannini, Charles “Chase” Murray, Catherine Gibson, Susan Kim, Porter DeVries, Wendy DeWeese, R. Hermann Heimgartner, Dawn Henry, Kauanoe Jackson, Aaron Masser, Charles McCreary, Gerald Garcia, Dean Kauka, Robert Kim, Brit Barker, Ann Datta, Katherine Deleon, Carol Kitaoka, Frederick “Ricky” Macapinlac, Andrew Odell, John Olson, Daniel Peters, Robert Triantos, Georgette Yaindl, Rebecca Colvin, Chris Eggert, Edward Fetzer, Stephen Frye, Jennifer Heimgartner, Andrew Kennedy, Robert Olson, Peter Olson, Donna Payesko, and Mitch Roth.

Also acknowledged were Laura Cushman, and Vita Zamedyanskiy, the AmeriCorps Advocates who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, organize the Self-Help Desk at the Kona Courthouse each week.

Dawn Henry, Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii in Kona said, “It’s been another year of tremendous support from our local attorneys and the West Hawaii Bar Association of the Kona Self-Help Desk.  I’d like to thank them, our local Judiciary staff, and our statewide partners who work tirelessly to make the project a success.  The Kona Self-Help Desk is the result of a statewide collaboration of the Hawai`i State Judiciary, the Hawai`i State Bar Association, the Hawai`i Access to Justice Commission and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i.  Hundreds of members of our community have accessed legal information through the Self-Help Desk.  It gives people a place to turn when they have legal questions.”

The Chief Justice also thanked the West Hawaii Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Access to Justice Commission for their support of the Self-Help Desk.