State Director of Finance Wesley Machida, who has served as the state’s budget director since 2014 and previously led the state’s $16 billion public employees pension fund, will retire effective New Year’s Eve.
Machida, 60, said he has undergone two surgeries in the past four years, and the last one “really made me rethink about what I need to do and how I need to take better care of myself and my family, so that was pretty much the deciding factor.”
“I just cannot put in the time that needs to be put in as director of finance, and that’s one of the other reasons why I need to leave,” Machida said. “They need somebody that can be a 24-by-seven director of finance. I just am not able to do that 24-by-seven anymore.”
With budget hearings scheduled to begin at the Hawaii State Capitol next week, Gov. David Ige announced he will appoint Department of Budget and Finance Deputy Director Laurel Johnston as acting director of finance.
Johnston was previously Ige’s deputy chief of staff, and also served as director of the budget office for the University of Hawaii system. Ige appointed Johnston as Machida’s deputy director a year ago.
House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke described Machida as “one of the brightest people we work with in this administration.
“He will be a great loss to this administration. He helped us in difficult issues such as rail. He’s somebody we can count on and depend on, and he will be irreplaceable. We hate to see him leave, because it will be a huge loss,” she said.
Machida is a former certified public accountant who has worked for state government for 30 years, including 18 years with the Hawaii Employees Retirement System. He was executive director of the ERS for four years.
Machida said he has a number of regrets about leaving his current job because “there’s more to be done.” The state is still faced with large unfunded liabilities in the ERS and the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, and more needs to be done to cut costs, he said.
“One of the more difficult things about this job is having to say no to services and things that are extremely important because there just are not enough monies to go around,” Machida said.
Ige also announced he is appointing Ryker Wada to serve as interim director of the Department of Human Resources Development following the retirement of Director James Nishimoto.
Nishimoto devoted more than 40 years of his career to public service, and has been “an outstanding leader in transforming state government,” Ige said in a written statement. Wada has served as deputy director of the department since Dec. 2016.