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Hawaii Tourism Authority hires leader John De Fries amid budget cuts, tourism collapse

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has hired its first Native Hawaiian president and CEO.

Tourism industry veteran John De Fries is slated to start Wednesday. According to the terms of his contract, he’ll be compensated at almost the same rate as his predecessor, Chris Tatum, who left the agency Aug. 31 to “spend more time with family.”

De Fries’ three-year contract, which ends Sept. 15, 2023, matches Tatum’s base annual salary of $270,000 in the first year, with an automatic 5% increase for each succeeding year of the contract. Like Tatum, De Fries won’t be entitled to join the state’s pension and retirement systems. However, he’ll get the same vacation, holiday and leave benefits as other state employees who are classified as “excluded exempt.”

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