Jeff Watanabe, the longtime chairman of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., retired Tuesday at the company’s annual shareholders meeting and was succeeded by retired Adm. Tom Fargo.
Watanabe, 77, had chaired the HEI board since 2006, and previously served as a director on the boards of the company’s two subsidiaries, Hawaiian Electric and American Savings Bank. He was managing partner of Watanabe Ing & Komeiji and has served on several public company boards, including Matson Inc. and Alexander & Baldwin Inc. Watanabe is currently a director of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s parent company, Oahu Publications Inc.
“Jeff’s incredible breadth of experience and wisdom from a lifetime of being deeply involved in every aspect of Hawaii’s growth and in national and international affairs provided steady leadership for our boards and helped guide HEI through many economic cycles and inflection points over the past 14 years,” HEI President and CEO Connie Lau said in a statement.
“During his tenure, Hawaiian Electric became a leader in renewable energy, electrification of transportation and grid modernization, while continuing to deliver on its vision of creating resilient, sustainable communities. American Savings Bank also grew to become one of Hawaii’s leading financial institutions.”
In December, the HEI board approved the appointment of Fargo to the position of nonexecutive chairperson to succeed Watanabe.
“I leave HEI’s chairmanship in very good hands with Tom,” Watanabe said. “The board was unanimous in its support of his leadership and will collaborate with him closely as it pursues an ambitious renewable energy agenda, builds a strong local economy and continues to drive value for customers and shareholders.”
Fargo, 71, has been an independent director of HEI’s board since 2005 and served as chair of the compensation committee. In addition to his decades of leadership experience, Fargo brings to the board deep knowledge of the U.S. military, a major customer of HEI’s electric utility subsidiary and a key driver of Hawaii’s economy. Fargo has been a resident of Hawaii since 1999.
“Hawaii is my home and I cannot be more honored to take on this role for a local company that serves our community,” Fargo said. “I am excited to work with my fellow board members and HEI management as we continue our focus on the prosperity of our island home, being a catalyst for a better Hawaii and providing value for all of our stakeholders.”
Fargo, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served in the Navy for 35 years, including six tours in Washington, D.C., and five commands in the Pacific and Indian oceans and Middle East. In his last military assignment, he served as commander of U.S. Pacific Command on Oahu from May 2002 until his retirement from the Navy in March 2005.