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EPA's Pacific Islands Contact Office Manager in Honolulu retiring after 37 years of service

Release Date: 2/27/2004
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

Vicki H. Tsuhako worked for EPA since agency's creation

HONOLULU One of the founding staff members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Vicki H. Tsuhako, will retire today as manager of the agency's Pacific Islands Contact Office after 37 years of service with the EPA.

"The agency has been good to me and I will miss all the good, dedicated people I've had the pleasure of working with," Tsuhako said. "I will leave with a lot of nice memories and experiences gained during my career with the EPA. I am very fortunate and honored to have worked for an agency that has such an important job in protecting our nation's environment."

Tsuhako, 60, began working at the Honolulu office of EPA's predecessor agency, the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration, when it was established in 1966. In 1970, it became part of the newly formed EPA.

In l975, the EPA's Region 9 Administrator transferred the staff in the Honolulu office to the San Francisco Regional Office except for Tsuhako, whose task was to serve as the EPA's public information officer and liaison with Hawai'i's state and local governments, as well as governments of Pacific island territories like American Samoa, Saipan and Guam.

As the EPA's responsibilities grew in the 1970's and 1980's as a result of new environmental laws, Tsuhako's work load grew. In 1987 the agency hired, Dean Higuchi, to assist. Since then, both have been the "Hawaii Team" for the EPA. In recent years, the office has added, two water pollution experts.

Tsuhako has seen the EPA through eight presidents, eight EPA administrators and a part of an agency that has grown to include over 18,000 employees nationwide. She has seen the agency take on new responsibilities to carry out the many laws that protect the nation's environment.

"It is amazing how much the agency has grown over the years, our regional office alone has grown, double, almost triple of what it was when I first started," Tsuhako said. "It just shows how much work is being done to protect our environment and how complex that job can be."

In 1983 she was one of a few EPA staff honored nationwide with the EPA Administrator's Award for Excellence and also received two agency Bronze Medals for Commendable Service.

The EPA's Pacific Island Contact Office will now be staffed with "the next generation" as Tsuhako calls Higuchi, and two members of the EPA's regional water division staff, Wendy Wiltse and Susan Polanco de Couet.

"It is going to be very weird for me to come to work with Vicki not here," said Higuchi, who has worked with Tsuhako for the past 16 years. "When I first started with the agency Vicki was here and it's been that way ever since. She hired me, taught me all about the EPA, and has always been there for advice and knowledge. It has been wonderful working with her, I'm going to miss working with her and I hope I can continue to represent the EPA as well as she has all these years."

Tsuhako now plans to spend more time with her three daughters, two of whom live in the Las Vegas area and her three grandchildren. "At least I go up to Vegas for more than gambling or shopping, I've got family to visit," joked Tsuhako. "I've already been asked to come back to volunteer at the office anytime I get bored of retirement, but I don't think that will happen, I'm looking forward to spending time with family, playing with my grandchildren, taking it easy, and enjoying the free time."
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