WASHINGTON — With the election of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) as speaker of the House early Saturday morning, new members of Congress were finally sworn in, including Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), who posted the following video message:

Rep. Jill Tokuda posted a video shortly after being sworn in.

“Aloha, everyone … It is Jan. 7 at 2 a.m. in the morning and after 15 votes we finally have a speaker, and more importantly, I have officially been sworn in as the United States representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. I just want to thank all of you for your patience, your well wishes that you’ve been sending us.

“But please know we have already hit the ground running, working hard because it’s so important that our families, our communities, our workers have not only a voice, but someone who’s really going to bring about change and action for all the people of Hawaii.

“And so thank you again. We’re going to get a few hours of sleep, but tomorrow’s another day and we’ve got a lot of work to do. So we’ll be in touch. I’ll keep you updated. I cannot wait to see you very soon in our community. Mahalo.”

The 2nd Congressional District encompasses Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, Kahoʻolawe, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kauaʻi, Niʻihau, and the rural parts of Oʻahu, including Waimanālo, Kailua, Kāneʻohe, the North Shore, and Waiʻanae coast.

House rules do not permit business to be conducted until a speaker has been selected. McCarthy finally received the required number of votes on the 15th ballot, after making several concessions to Republican hard-liners who opposed him.

Democrats supported Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York for speaker. He will serve as House minority leader. The previous speaker, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, is still a member of Congress but stepped down as House Democratic leader after Republicans won a majority in the November elections.

Tokuda Announces Staff

Leading Tokuda’s Washington, D.C. congressional office as chief of staff is Wendy Clerinx, who has over 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill and in Washington.

Born and raised in Hilo, Clerinx is a graduate of Waiākea High School. She holds degrees in economics and political science from Santa Clara University and is also a graduate of George Washington University Law School.

Clerinx is a seasoned Capitol Hill professional who has served as the legislative director for several members of Congress and as advisor to the assistant secretary for insular affairs. She returned home to Hawaii for two years to serve as director of policy to former Gov. Neil Abercrombie at the beginning of his term. Most recently, she served as general counsel to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. 

“Wendy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her position as my new chief of staff,” said Tokuda. “As I begin my first term in the 118th Congress, I’m confident she will put her leadership skills to work as we build a strong team that will best guide our office to serve the people of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.”

Tokuda also appointed Kendra Oishi, who has over two decades of public service experience in Hawaii, as her district chief. In this role, she oversees and leads the district office.

Oishi is a lifelong Hawaii resident and a graduate of Kailua High School. She holds a BA in history from the University of Hawaii–West O’ahu and a Master of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco. 

Oishi’s public service career includes extensive policy and budget development experience with the Hawaii State Legislature, including serving as budget chief for the Senate Ways and Means Committee during Tokuda’s tenure as chair of the committee.

Oishi has also held leadership positions in the Hawaii State Department of Education and most recently served as executive administrator and secretary of the Board of Regents at the University of Hawaii.

“Over the course of her career, Kendra has engaged in outreach activities statewide and has gained a breadth of knowledge of issues of importance to Hawaii,” noted Tokuda. “She is the perfect person to lead our district office, and I’m excited to have her as part of our team.”

Maui resident Deidre Tegarden is Tokuda’s official transition aide. In this role, she serves as the primary point of contact responsible for assisting with the setup of the Washington, D.C. and district offices.

Tegarden most recently served as executive director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center on Maui. Previously, she was chief of protocol for Gov. Abercrombie and Gov. David Ige. She also served as the point person for the U.S.-Japan Council’s state-prefecture meetings in 2012.

She also served as director for the Office of Economic Development, County of Maui and as executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters Maui. She was a recipient of Pacific Business News’ “Forty Under 40” Award, past president of the Rotary Club of Kahului and a graduate of the Weinberg Fellows Program. Tegarden is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a BA in Japanese and Chinese studies.

“With extensive experience in the public and private sectors, Deidre will have a key role in helping to build our staff in both Hawaii and Washington, D.C.,” said Tokuda. “As a resident of Maui Nui, it’s important for me to ensure that our office reflects the diversity of our district and I’m confident that Deidre will help us to achieve that.”

Tokuda is seeking individuals to serve in other key positions on her congressional staff in Washington, D.C., and the district office. Interested persons can apply via the website: www.tokudaforhawaii.com/apply

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