Esther Kia’aina will be nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
If confirmed as assistant secretary for Insular Areas by the U.S. Senate, Kia’aina would spearhead efforts to coordinate federal policy for Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, the Interior department said in a press release.
She would also have the responsibility to administer and to oversee federal assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau, the department said.
“Born in Guam to Native Hawaiian parents, Esther brings extensive expertise and a keen understanding of the issues facing the U.S. territories and the freely associated states,” said Interior secretary Sally Jewell. “As a resident of Hawaii with strong connections to Pacific islands and experience on Capitol Hill, she will be a tremendous asset to this Department as we continue the collaborative progress we are making to strengthen the health, safety, and welfare of the Insular Areas.”
As first deputy director at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, she has worked on watershed management protection initiatives, threatened and endangered species protection, invasive species control, land and ocean preservation, and strengthening public-private and enforcement partnerships.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, “Esther brought a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm in serving as First Deputy of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.” He added, “While she will be sorely missed here as part of the DLNR ohana, Esther’s personal and professional background on Capitol Hill, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands will make her the strongest possible asset to the Interior Secretary.”
Both Sen. Brian Schatz and Sen. Mazie Hirono praised the pending nomination.
Kia’aina is a former chief advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and was chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Ed Case and Robert A. Underwood (D-Guam), and a legislative assistant to former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka.