Governor Neil Abercrombie has appointed Esther Puakela Kia’aina to the deputy director position of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). Ms. Kia’aina fills the vacancy left by t Guy Kaulukukui, who resigned in August. She begins on October 15, 2012. Kia’aina most recently became more well known to Hawaii and Hawaii Island residents when she ran in an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Congress, a slot won by Tulsi Gabbard. However, critics gave her high marks for her knowledge of the issues.
“Esther is committed to public service and is passionate about our land and natural resources,” stated Governor Abercrombie. “Her breadth of experience in policy and land management complements what we are doing in our New Day plans.”
“I couldn’t be happier knowing that Esther will be a part of the DLNR team,” stated DLNR Director William Aila. “She is eager to get to work and I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Ms. Kia’aina has over 20 years of experience in developing and implementing policy on issues that concern the State of Hawai’i. She is the former chief advocate at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and former land asset manager of The Kamehameha Schools’ Land Assets Division. Ms. Kia’aina has worked for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, Congressman Robert Underwood, and Congressman Ed Case. Some of the initiatives that she worked on include: the Kalaupapapa Memorial Act, the Coral Reef Conservation and Protection Act, the Compact-Impact Reimbursement Act, the Brown Tree Snake Control and Eradication Act, the Apology Resolution, and the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act.
After 20 years of service in Washington, D.C. Ms. Kia’aina returned home and now resides in Nanakuli, O’ahu.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Ms. Kia’aina holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and international relations. She also holds a juris doctor from the George Washington University Law School.