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Aiona to go to work for Saint Louis School

The former lieutenant governor, however, said he will keep his political options open

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 2:12 a.m. HST, Dec 17, 2010

Former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona accepted an administrative job created for him at his high school alma mater, but did not rule out a return to politics, particularly the governor's race in 2014.

Aiona yesterday said he will become executive vice president for development and recruitment at Saint Louis School starting next year, adding he already has discussed with school officials the possibility of running for state office in four years.

"I've expressed my desire to be able to re-evaluate, in a couple of years, where I stand politically," Aiona, 55, said. "That doesn't mean I am going to run a campaign at this time. It doesn't mean that I am running for office, at this point in time.

"It does mean that I want to keep my options open and (President Walter Kirimitsu) has graciously allowed me to keep my options open."

Kirimitsu said he did not want to preclude Aiona from political opportunities.

"Duke is a young man, and so what is in the horizon for him, we'll never know," Kirimitsu said. "It's only fair to allow the opportunities to present themselves as we go down the road."

Aiona graduated from the 600-student Catholic boys school in Kaimuki in 1973 and was also assistant basketball coach. He has served on the school's Board of Trustees since 2001.

He left office this month after the inauguration of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who beat the Republican in the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.

In his new role, which begins Jan. 3, Aiona will lead the school's efforts in recruitment and enrollment, fundraising and marketing. His salary was not released.

He joins Kirimitsu, a former state judge and University of Hawaii general counsel, and Principal Patricia Hamamoto, the former state schools superintendent, on the leadership team at the school.

Kirimitsu said the executive vice president post was created for Aiona to take advantage of his background and reputation for public service. Before his two terms as lieutenant governor, Aiona was a Honolulu deputy prosecutor, Family Court judge and Drug Court judge.

"What he brings to the table is the heart of Saint Louis -- he's a Saint Louis man," Kirimitsu said. "He's a model Saint Louis graduate.

"He's served the community in various capacities and he's given back to the community. So when we talk about Duke Aiona as being a member of the Saint Louis administrative team, I think it's a great asset for us to go out to the public and to say, 'We have a person of Duke's stature as part of our administrative team, so why not enroll your son? Why not give more money to support the school?'"

Foremost on Aiona's agenda will be fundraising, Kirimitsu said.

The school still needs to raise $2 million to complete the state-of-the-art Clarence T.C. Ching Learning and Technology Center. The school also aims to renovate its academic facilities and replace Gerber Field House with a new athletic complex similar to a "mini-Stan Sheriff Center," Kirimitsu said.

"The upgrade of the whole campus facility -- academically and athletically -- will be our plan and goal," he said. "Duke will be taking the leadership on that."

Aiona, no stranger to fundraising, said he planned to meet with school officials to discuss the campus' needs and plans to announce a capital fundraising campaign.

"We're going to have to raise some money -- in the millions of dollars," Aiona said. "I look forward to that challenge. I don't think it's insurmountable.

"If it was insurmountable, I definitely would not be standing here."

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