“Senator Akaka has had a significant role in every workforce bill to emerge from Congress over the last decade,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive of Partnership for Public Service. “His common sense, bipartisanship and work ethic will be missed — and let’s not overlook that he is one of the nicest, most genial members of the Senate. He’s not flashy, but he is immensely substantive.”
The bipartisanship was evident in his relationship with Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, the top Republican on the workforce subcommittee when he retired two years ago. They called each other “brother.” They attended subcommittee meetings when no other members did. While members of Congress routinely refer to colleagues as “my good friend,” Akaka and Voinovich really meant it when speaking about each other.
Akaka talks a lot about “trying to eliminate the fences” that hamper communication and cooperation in the federal government. “I’ve seen progress in that area” but not in Congress, he said. With the acrimony between Senate Democrats and Republicans, “it has moved towards being dysfunctional,” he said.
Akaka won’t have to worry with that soon, at least not anymore than the rest of us. He leaves a big spot to fill.
“All of us look up to him as an alaka’i — leader — who is pono — acts with righteousness,” John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said by e-mail. “Life both in Hawai’i and across America is better for his service. The people of Hawai’i, the Federal workforce, and I, personally, want to say mahalo nui loa, a big thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
“He will be sorely missed.”
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.