Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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Thom Williams became executive director of Hawaii’s largest public pension plan, serving more than 118,000 retired state workers and beneficiaries, on Nov. 2, just a week before it was announced that its billions of dollars in investments around the world had suffered a 6 percent, half-billion-dollar decline in the quarter ended Sept. 30, to $13.5 billion — its worst quarterly performance in four years.

In his roughly 64 years of life as a Native Hawaiian, Kuhio Asam has followed a gradual progression in his understanding of what he now calls Hawaiians' "inherent right to sovereignty and to determine their future."

As James Horton mills through Punchbowl Cemetery, where he is director, he is constantly envisioning where the next building project could be. It’s important that he “not close the gates” for veteran interments.

Drew Stotesbury admits he’s moved across a few career tracks (“I get bored easily,” he said) in a career that ranged from an educational background in finance, and assignments in development and the hotel/hospitality industry.

Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie has been working in the field of Native Hawaiian law long enough that a book she helped write and edit in 1991, “The Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook,” was publicly re-released this month.

Honolulu Police Maj. Darren Izumo, head of the Traffic Division, cautions drivers against falling into any of the dreaded “D” categories — drunk, distracted, drowsy, drugged and “just plain dumb.” In this case, dumb represents reckless driving and speeding.

In her four years in the nation’s capital, Colleen Hanabusa got to know some parts quite well, including parts underground. She rode the Metro regularly, surely never anticipating that she’d be out of office and landing on the board tasked with creating the equivalent in Honolulu.

Scott Wilson recently wrapped up the last of three town hall meetings on the future of Kakaako, presiding over them as Honolulu chapter president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-Honolulu), which has among its missions to “communicate the value of architects and architecture to society” and “take a stand on key issues to improve quality of life through design.”

So much attention has been focused on the eight-man crew clearing Kakaako’s homeless encampment block by block and their boss, city Chief Engineer Ross Sasamura, that it’s become old hat — hard hat, that is — for them to be in the spotlight.

David Bissell, president and chief executive officer of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, knows all about two of the Garden Island’s great resources — the sun and the rain.

Keli'i Akina is one of six plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed recently against the state of Hawaii and others seeking to stop an election and convention that possibly would help establish a sovereign Native Hawaiian government.

Street Grindz founder Poni Askew wants someone, anyone, to launch a musubi food truck. Not one of the 250 vendors in the Street Grindz network, Askew said, is devoted to the rice balls (or rectangles) with a savory surprise inside.

Claudia Shay, executive director of the Self-Help Housing Corp. of Hawaii, is on the job in Maili, wearing a T-shirt marking this year’s 50th anniversary of the national self-help housing movement. “Some assembly required” is printed across the front.

Leslie Cole-Brooks is executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, whose 83 business members seem to face unending economic challenges. Cole-Brooks joined the nonprofit trade association in May 2012, and said it has matched well with her vision of years ago to work on issues close to her heart.

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson considers himself lucky to have grown up on the edge of what was known then as “Kawainui Swamp.”

Robert Landau has spent most of his long career working for private schools outside of the U.S., and now he’s applying his wealth of multicultural experience to his new job as executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

When Michele Nekota was earning her master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix, she probably never envisioned a career in parks administration, neither in Salt Lake City nor back here in the city of her birth.

Lance Mizumoto is not proposing this as a model to replicate in schools statewide, but it worked at least that one time that the Board of Education’s new chairman stood in front of a third-grade classroom, trying to get the attention of the restless kids.

To describe Sheri Kajiwara as a hard worker doesn’t quite convey the determined enthusiasm she exudes as director of the city’s Department of Customer Services.

Just back from a hiking trip in Scotland and England, Virginia Pressler is continuing on that exercise track. The mother of two grown children, she enjoys early-morning walks with her husband and keeps a fitness ball under her desk. In short, she is the picture of health.

Steven Levinson wrote almost 300 legal opinions during his long career as a judge in Hawaii, but probably none has reverberated more widely than the one he wrote in 1993 while an associate justice with the Hawaii Supreme Court that set the ball rolling toward the legalization of same-sex marriage — not only in Hawaii but nationwide as well.

Don’t look for Mark Dunkerley in a posh corner office. Instead you’ll find Hawaiian Airlines’ president and chief executive officer amid the employees he leads, comfortable at a table-style desk in the open floor plan that is a hallmark of the airline’s Honolulu headquarters.

Elizabeth Reilly says she always knew she wanted to live in Hawaii, where she has been working persistently for more than a decade as president of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui to protect its lands and cultural resources, especially in East Honolulu.

John Whalen, 71, was at the point in his life when, with his daughter well into pursuing her own career, he contemplated winding up his own. He could travel, he thought, possibly return to Ecuador where he first worked as a planning intern.

Hawaii’s new state librarian took a different path from the one that she thought she would be taking when she was a college student in Pennsylvania. “I wanted to be a Slavic cataloger at the Library of Congress,” said Aldrich, who laughed on Monday at the memory. “As you can see, I did not land there.”

Not many people come away from a prison visit believing they belong in that world, but Nolan Espinda did. Back when he was getting his B.A. in political science at California State University-Chico, he got a tour of San Quentin that left an impression.

Young people concerned about their own health and the well-being of their generation propelled passage of legislation that has Hawaii poised to be the first state in the country to limit tobacco sales to people 21 and older.

Malia Chow was born and raised in Hawaii and, like so many people before her and since, launched her career on the mainland before finding her way back to the islands. She always had a head for science but at one point of her postdoctoral studies, the molecular biologist took a turn toward the sea.

Alethea Rebman is president of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society, and seeks to make sure the highly popular and heavily used park is always managed according to the terms of the public charitable trust under which it was created in 1896.

Kelvin Taketa, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Community Foundation, finds great satisfaction in the work of HCF, which is heading into its centennial year.

As the chief academic officer of Hawaii's public schools, Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe was the point man for a reform movement that demanded more of teachers and principals in an all-out effort to boost opportunity and achievement for students.

Myles Breiner is a former city deputy prosecutor from the days when Charles Marsland was Honolulu's chief prosecutor, who now leads the charge for the rights of defendants — and by extension, he says, all of us — as president of the Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (HACDL).

A couple of decades back, John McDermott turned his vocational pathway from Catholic seminarian toward social work. As state long-term care ombudsman for the last 17 years, however, he's found it's still a form of ministry.

"Being in public service is exciting; it's rewarding," Ono said Monday when interviewed about his work and some of the issues his office has been focused on recently — including the proposed merger-acquisition of HEI.

Activists often profess to work on behalf of those with no voice at the table, and in Marjorie Ziegler's case, the assertion is literally true. As executive director of the Conservation Council for Hawaii, she strives to protect Hawaii's native plants and animals — species that depend on human intervention to undo ravages caused by mankind's earlier missteps.

What helps Scott Morishige remain focused on the goals of his agency is witnessing those success stories, the people who've come back from years of living on the streets and are on a better path.

Rachael Wong has been at the helm of the state Department of Human Services for just 2 1/2 months and already has made it clear how she intends to run the department.

A deep-rooted commitment to social justice motivates Jacce S. Mikulanec, whether he is advocating for gay rights, universal preschool or the preservation of the Honouliuli Internment Camp.

Richard Ha says he learned his own can-do spirit from his father, who worked the land before him on Hawaii island. Farming has always been a challenge, he said earlier this week, but now the challenges are starting to overcome even the sunniest optimist.

Sierra Club Hawaii is currently between directors, so the environmental nonprofit is taking the team approach toward the annual mission of lobbying at the Legislature.

Harry Saunders has long known that developers often get a bad rap in Hawaii. He is, after all, president of Castle Cooke Hawaii, which has developed more than 20,000 homes in Hawaii and currently is seeking to build the controversial 3,500-home Koa Ridge project in Central Oahu.

It was a bus strike that got Chad Taniguchi back on his bike. The executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League was a routine cyclist until he was 25 years old, but then fell out of the habit. In 2003, at age 52, he started commuting to work by bike again, when labor strife stalled his usual ride.

Wesley Lo is Maui region chief executive officer for the state's Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and believes an agreement that his region has been negotiating with a potential private partner, Hawaii Pacific Health, could be a model for statewide application.

Located at the foot of Diamond Head, Waikiki Elementary School has test scores to prove that something special is going on there. Moreover, Caine is not the first teacher from that school to be named state public school teacher of the year; colleague Matthew Lawrence was chosen in 2014.

In case anyone is wondering: The new CEO of Kamehameha Schools does take occasional "ribbing" about being a graduate of Punahou School. (He met his wife, Kimi, while they were attending UCLA, but their three kids are part of Team Buffanblu, too.)

Bob Marchant uses every bit of his life experience — as a hotel executive, a college instructor, a pastor and time in the military — in his work as executive director of the River of Life Mission, abiding by its promise to be "a friend to the friendless."

Susan Chandler says she had no particular opinions about medical marijuana before she agreed to be facilitator for Hawaii's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task force — and as a formal matter she still is neutral when conducting the business of the legislatively created body.

Esther Kia‘aina, the youngest of seven children, was born in Guam, where her father was a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy. So her appointment as the assistant secretary for insular affairs — the part of the Department of the Interior that deals with the U.S. territories, including Guam — feels a bit like a homecoming, a chance to give back.

Barely two weeks as chief of the city's new Office of Strategic Development, Sandra Pfund is working to fast-track housing on city property, especially for homeless people who need "wraparound" mental-health and social services.

Ron Iwami wasn't sure in 2005 that taking on the state's Hawaii Community Development Authority and original "Big Five" member Alexander & Baldwin Inc. was something he should do.

There are parts of the state's information technology system that were built before Keone Kali, 43, was even born. Kali became the state's chief information officer in February after the departure of Sonny Bhagowalia.

Jeffrey Kissel has largely weathered the first open-enrollment period of his tenure as executive director of the Hawaii Health Connector.

Jennifer Sabas has been keeping busy since her former boss, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, died in December 2012 at age 88. Resume highlights at the moment for the senator's former chief of staff include executive director of Move Oahu Forward, a pro-rail organization she joined in May 2013.

Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong has, besides the unusual spelling of his first name, a distinction: At 64, he said, he's among the last military officers from the Vietnam era still serving in full-time status.

"Be True to Your School" is more than a song to University of Hawaii alumnus Jay Shidler. It's a personal mantra, and a rallying cry to likeminded alumni to support what the business mogul considers Hawaii's most important institution — even if they can't commit anything close to the $100 million that he has.

Resilience is more than an individual personal trait, it's a collective community asset, one that must be learned, taught and handed down through the generations.

Michael Titterton is aware of the many concerns about Hawaii Public Radio's semi-annual on-air fundraising drives, but for now, he says, there's probably no better alternative.

The Navy has been a part of Steve Colon's life, one way or another, for more than three decades. Colon, Hawaii region president for Hunt Cos., left active duty in 1988 and retired from the reserves as a captain in 2006.

The executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women welcomes the opportunity for a "culture shift" in the way Honolulu police respond to domestic violence in the wake of a highly publicized incident involving a police sergeant.

Sid McWhirter is Hanauma Bay's version of the reluctant warrior. As president of the nonprofit Friends of Hanauma Bay, he has become somewhat of a thorn in the side of some city officials for his persistence in seeking answers about why operations at the world-famous Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park have, in some respects, been deficient.

On Wednesday, Alan Oshima will move into the Hawaiian Electric Co. president and CEO's office -- but he's already been a presence at its core for several years.

Jenai Wall is a leading Hawaii business executive who believes in supporting the communities that support her famiy's businesses. It's a tradition started by her father, Maurice "Sully" Sullivan, who started the Foodland supermarket chain in 1948, opening its first store at Market City in Kaimuki.

In the 14 months that Ivan Lui-Kwan has chaired the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the controversial Oahu fixed-rail project has emerged from an obstacle course -- a daunting one by any standard.

Hawaii Medical Service Association, as the state's largest health-insurance company, has always been a titanic presence in the Hawaii health care industry, and as its president and CEO, Michael Gold always had a voice that carried.

Political iconoclast Ed Case was back in the media spotlight on primary-election night, but not because he was running for office.

Briefly, before heading off to law school, Judge R. Mark Browning, 59, spent a few years as a teacher at 'Iolani School. That came with its own set of challenges, everything from instruction in math -- never his strong suit, Browning admitted -- to, upon the conversion to co-educational classrooms, the first sex-education class at the formerly boys-only campus.

To say that Simon Engler has an adventuresome spirit is putting it mildly. The computer scientist, who specializes in robotics and artificial intelligence, continually pushes his physical and intellectual limits, a mindset that makes him a natural for the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation.

Kristin Izumi-Nitao is executive director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, which especially during election season commands attention for its role in making sure the many political candidates comply with laws intended to ensure the integrity and transparency of the campaign finance process.

Ruthann Quitiquit's office is filled with the kind of bric-a-brac that marks someone who's worked somewhere a long time. "I grew up here," she said. "I came here when I was 33 years old. I'm going to be 67 in October."

In his rare free moments at home in Kailua, Wayne Pfeffer does his best to enjoy his new Hawaii environment. At 62, the two daughters are grown, he has remarried and makes sure he takes what time remains to head to the beach and bike paths.

Lance Wilhelm earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1988, and shortly after began his long career in construction.

David Striph didn't rise in the ranks at Howard Hughes Corp. quickly; it happened instantaneously. Well into his career in real estate financing for a bank, he struck up a friendship over a major loan with David Weinreb and Grant Herlitz, who at the time wore different hats.

Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock is originally from Singapore, which could help explain her reaction to the state of Chinatown in Honolulu these days.

Carole Hayashino's work as president and executive director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is at once deeply personal and tied to the overall history of Hawaii and the United States.

Sheila Beckham took over as chief executive officer of the Waikiki Health Center five years ago, at the peak of the recession, so she's seen the clinics' target population swell and, in particular, homelessness increase.

Michael Hansen isn't asking for much. After all, as president of the Hawaii Shippers' Council, it's not like he's seeking repeal of the entire federal Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

Jonathan Parrish had a moment to reflect this week, right after the close of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra's 2013-2014 concert series and the soon-to-be announced full season for the next year, starting Sept. 13.

Jane Sawyer has been on the staff of the U.S. Small Business Administration in Hawaii since 1993, which has given her a good vantage point from which to assess business trends in the state.

Former Kaiser High School Principal John Sosa has experienced the highs and lows of working in Hawaii’s public schools more intensely than most Department of Education employees

Hospital administration is a lot about numbers, and Susan Murray, chief operating officer of the soon-to-open Queen's Medical Center-West Oahu, has a lot of them right at her fingertips.

Scott Enright earned his bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, but somehow ended up having a long career in agriculture.

Talk about rush-hour traffic stress. Michelle Del Rosario confronted it, both barrels, practically the moment she stepped off the plane from Maui Feb. 20, petitions to form the Hawaii Independent Party in hand.

Honored by the UH Board of Regents for teaching excellence, Danielle Conway publishes widely and has traveled the world giving lectures and working on special projects, including a stint as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Australia.

Tony Gill is a second-generation labor attorney and former Democratic Party of Hawaii official who believes that only people who publicly support the Democratic Party of Hawaii should be able to pick its candidates.

Richard Rosenblum, 63, was "a very happy fella" in retirement on Hawaii island in 2008 when a recruiter happened along and pitched a new job opportunity to him: president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Co.

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is not at the forefront of changes that make it easier for people to donate blood, and that's by design. Medical Director Dr. Randal Covin describes the center as "very conservative" in its approach, with the safety of blood donors and the patients who receive their lifesaving gifts of foremost concern.

Simeon Acoba Jr. is the latest victim of a Hawaii law that forces judges to retire at age 70, but he's actually OK with that. "That is what the law is, and that's something I basically accept," said Acoba.

The ocean has been part of Andrew Rossiter's life, practically from the day he was born. Rossiter, the director of the Waikiki Aquarium, grew up in Wales, "from the side where if you go 100 yards, you're in the Irish Sea," where he and his mates would go diving for fun.

Tom Yamachika was as surprised as anyone when Lowell Kalapa, the widely known, respected and liked president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, died in December at age 64.

John Holzman, who is departing from the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, has been sitting at that table for all of the most turbulent, headline-grabbing episodes.

Just about every good thing in life starts with a deep-rooted sense of community, to John Reppun's way of thinking. His large extended family is synonymous with the preservation of a sustainable, productive, rural lifestyle on Windward Oahu.

Dr. Christopher Happy has been on the job as Honolulu's chief medical examiner since late November and already he can tell you that some changes at the city morgue in Iwilei are going to have to be made soon.

The ironic element in Corey Rosenlee's work life: The most outspoken advocate for air-conditioned classrooms in public schools, after years of teaching in a sweltering environment, now has one.

Georgenne "GG" Weisenfeld moved to Oahu from New York City six years ago seeking a better life for her family, which includes her husband and two children.

Teri Orton has been general manager of the Hawai‘i Convention Center technically for a month now, though actually she started on the job about two weeks before.

At an earlier stage in his working life, Doug Cole had a real estate license and learned more about development law while he was studying to be an attorney. So he knows all about blueprints.

Marti Townsend walks to work most days, a 30-minute trip from Makiki to her office on King Street that not only serves as good exercise but also keeps her connected to Honolulu's cityscape at the street level.

Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner for the state of Hawaii, has an inbox filled with all matters relating to regulating insurance in the islands, with the exception of paying workers' compensation benefits. Earlier this week, the Insurance Division released rate guides for health, homeowner and car policies, posting them online (

Bruce Kim signed on as executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection in July 2011 and it's been a wild ride ever since.

Charles Totto, executive director of the Honolulu Ethics Commission, like any other attorney, recognizes the importance of precision where words are involved. The words that have been causing a clash between his staff and that of the city Corporation Counsel are "administratively attached."

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