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Mayor Blangiardi names city’s manager and employee of the year

From left to right:
Councilmember Esther Kiaʻāina, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Employee of the Year James Cullen Jr., Manager of the Year Erwin Kawata, and Councilmember Augie Tulba.

HONOLULU – Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced today the manager and employee of the year for the City and County of Honolulu.

Erwin Kawata, of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, earned recognition as the 2022 manager of the year, and James Cullen Jr., of the Department of the Medical Examiner, was named this year’s employee of the year.

“I am impressed by their passion, caring and the loyalty that these colleagues have for the important work of the city, and what we can all accomplish collectively,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “This year’s employee and manager of the year reflect a renewed commitment to hiring high-quality individuals who can play a meaningful role in our efforts to be more responsive to the challenges facing the City and County of Honolulu.”

The announcement was made on Sept. 9 as part of the 2022 Mayor’s Awards Program. The awards program recognizes city workers who have performed job-related acts of heroism and highlights employees who have performed their jobs in an exemplary manner.

Kawata, the city’s manager of the year, is a Program Administrator.  He is recognized as an exemplary manager with strong planning, organizational and collaborative leadership skills. He challenged team members to take on new tasks while working to develop their skills and careers as leaders in city government.

Cullen, the employee of the year, is a Prosector Assistant III with the Department of the Medical Examiner. He was nominated for his hard work, dedication and excellent service to the city. Cullen was praised for his dedication, knowledge and contributions to department operations. He is also recognized for sharing his expertise and assistance with other communities.

Honolulu Emergency Services Department employees received the Valor Award for acts of heroism that involved exposure to extreme danger and possible injury to the employee, others or property. Noland K. Keaulana and Jesse P. King were recognized individually for saving victims caught in treacherous surf conditions.

The Exceptional Achievement Award went to Department of Information Technology employees Celestino E. Canja, Travis K. Kamioka, Jonathan M. Ortal and Johny Zheng. The employees implemented five initiatives and were committed to completing these projects.

Kathleen A. Kelly was honored as the Outstanding Deputy Corporation Counsel for her exceptional efforts on behalf of the department.  The Outstanding Deputy Prosecuting Attorney award went to veteran attorney Leah L. Takeuchi for serving as a critical contact for the Police Department.

The Citizens’ Selection Committee, which selects the winners, consisted of Michelle Bartell, senior vice president and director of community advancement at American Savings Bank, Lori Suan, chief development officer at Rehab Hospital of the Pacific, and Dana Vela, president and CEO at Kamaaina Kids.

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