Sewickley Valley native Josh Green is set to become lieutenant governor of Hawaii
Josh Green fondly remembers his childhood walks to Edgeworth Elementary School, with the family dog often following behind.
It was a safe neighborhood. His parents never had to worry.
“It was the most wonderful experience,” he said.
Green, 48, now the lieutenant governor-elect of Hawaii, says his years in Quaker Valley helped mold him into the person he is today, where he works to fight chronic homelessness and help those suffering from addiction and mental health issues through his role in government.
“If you help your community around you, then you’ve done your part,” he said.
Born in Upstate New York, Green moved to Edgeworth at the age of 1.
But his family has had roots in the Sewickley Valley for decades.
“We’re a Quaker Valley family,” he said.
His grandfather Sam Green moved to Ambridge in 1920 and ran Green International from the heart of Sewickley. His mother, Natasha, was named Woman of the Year years ago for her humanitarian work.
“The Greens are philanthropists,” Josh Green said.
At Quaker Valley High School, Green was president of the Key Club and captain of the tennis team. He played on the soccer team for two years, although he’s quick to point out that he wasn’t a star athlete on the team, calling himself “more of a geek than jock.”
The 1988 graduate was one of four valedictorians that year.
Green still remembers his teachers by name. He talks about the impact each made in his life.
“It was formative for me in every way,” he said.
Gene Klein, a retired Quaker Valley teacher and former soccer coach, says he always knew Green was going somewhere in life.
“You always knew he would make an impact,” he said. “When I think of where he is and where he has been, I think of three things: compassion, passion and persistence.”
Green always wanted to help people, Klein said. “He’s focused on the people that struggle, and whatever he takes on, he does it with enormous passion.”
And he doesn’t give up. Whether it’s fighting for that extra point in class or for the people of Hawaii, “there’s no quit in him,” Klein said.
Green attended Swarthmore College and majored in biology and anthropology.
He went on to medical school at Penn State University, where he graduated in three years.
He spent a year in Swaziland, Africa, working in missionary hospitals where he saw people with malaria and untreated AIDS.
“That showed me that if I wanted to be a doctor that I wanted to give back,” he said.
After returning to Pittsburgh for three years for his residency at UPMC Shadyside, Green joined the National Health Core, which repays loans for students who commit to serving in underserved areas.
Green was assigned to Big Island, Hawaii, where there was no doctor for more than 1,000 square miles.
Working in that rural area, where he saw people suffering from addiction, trauma and lack of access to care, led him to seek public office.
“At that point, I was just really frustrated that we weren’t getting drug treatment for people, we weren’t helping families that were struggling with mental illness,” he said. “I had just wanted to make a point, but I ended up winning.”
Green was elected to two terms in Hawaii’s state House of Representatives, where he served from 2004 to 2008. He then served as a state senator from 2008 to 2018.
His first appropriation in office was a $250,000 grant and $475,000 state appropriation to help with the opening of a free clinic, the West Hawaii Community Health Center. It started with four employees. Today, it has 140.
He did a lot of work with health care and environmental issues during his time in the state legislature. He continued to practice as an emergency room physician.
Green, a Democrat, won a heavily contested primary. He and incumbent Gov. David Ige won the Nov. 4 general election by a wide margin.
As Green was campaigning for lieutenant governor, Klein flew out to Hawaii, mostly for vacation, but also to help his former student campaign.
Green and his wife, Jaime, and children, Maia and Sam, are transitioning from Big Island to Oahu for his new role. Green will head back to Big Island once a month to be “doc” in the ER.
In the back room in the lieutenant governor’s office, Green plans to hang a sign to show his Pittsburgh roots noting “You’re in Steelers Country.”
Green returns twice a year to Pittsburgh to visit friends and family.
“I come back wearing my Franco Harris jersey, and we go by Quaker Valley and we go to Primantis and we try and take in a soccer game,” he said.
Green still roots for QV soccer and knows that they’re going to win championships more often than not.
“I’ll always come back to my roots,” he said.
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.