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Hawaiʻi Delegates Commend Appointment of Kia‘āina to Interior Dept.

September 10, 2013, 3:03 PM HST · Updated September 10, 4:54 PM
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Esther Kia'aina, courtesy photo.

Esther Kia’aina, courtesy photo.

By Wendy Osher

Hawaiʻi state and congressional delegates today applauded the president’s announcement of his intent to nominate Esther Kia‘āina to serve as the assistant secretary for insular areas at the US Department of the Interior.

Kia‘āina currently serves as deputy director of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, and made an unsuccessful run during the 2012 primary elections for the 2nd congressional district seat on the Democratic ticket.

Previously, she served as chief advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from 2009 to 2011; and from 2007 to 2009, she was a land asset manager for the Kamehameha Schools Land Asset Division, officials said.

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Prior to her move back to Hawaiʻi, Kia‘āina spent 20 years in Washington, DC where she worked for US Senator Daniel Akaka, Congressman Robert Underwood, and Congressman Ed Case.

US Senator Mazie Hirono commended Kia‘āina on the news saying she has, “a long record of advancing the priorities of both Hawai‘i and native peoples in Washington, serving our state in leadership roles in both the House and Senate.”

In a media release issued on Tuesday, Sen. Hirono said:

“In particular, she has been a strong and consistent advocate for the Native Hawaiian community throughout her time in public service. She also has strong experience with Hawaiʻi’s unique land concerns through her work in the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools Land Asset Division. Esther is an excellent choice to serve in DOI, and I wish her a quick confirmation.”

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Fellow US Senator Brian Schatz also lauded the appointment by issuing the following statement:

“Esther has had a distinguished career in public service, during which she has developed significant expertise in Native Hawaiian issues and land management. This is one of the few Senate confirmed positions for which a local Hawaiian leader has been nominated. I congratulate her on this worthy nomination, and look forward to a speedy confirmation process. The people and state of Hawai‘i will be better served with Esther Kia‘āina as Assistant Secretary of Insular Areas.”

Under her new role, Kia‘āina will be tasked with leading the Department of Interior in its efforts to coordinate federal policy for Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, said Sen. Schatz.

She will also have the responsibility to administer and oversee federal assistance to the Federated State of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau, Schatz said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie applauded the news as well, saying Kia‘āina has brought, “a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm,” in serving in her capacity within the state DLNR.

“While she will be sorely missed here as part of the DLNR ohana, Esther’s personal and professional background on Capitol Hill, Hawaiʻi, and the Pacific Islands will make her the strongest possible asset to the Interior Secretary,” said Gov. Abercrombie.

Officials note that Kia‘āina received a BA from the University of Southern California and a JD from the George Washington University Law School.

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