The Honolulu City Council has confirmed former Hawaii State Senator Laura H. Thielen as director for the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, which announced her confirmation in a press release this afternoon.
Before representing Senate District 25 (Kailua to Hawaii Kai) from 2012 through 2020, chairing the committees on Water and Land and Government Operations, Thielen, 59, served as chairwoman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources from 2007 to 2010, and as director of the State Office of Planning (the lead agency for the State Coastal Zone Management Program) from 2005 to 2007.
An attorney and the daughter of former Hawaii State Representative Cynthia Thielen, she graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and earned her Juris Doctor degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
“Laura possesses the passion, experience and a deep seeded motivation to take care of our public lands,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said in the announcement. “I am confident Laura will excel in her new leadership role.”
As DPR director, Thielen will oversee more than 800 employees and a multi-million dollar budget for maintaining and improving the facilities of 304 designated park and garden locations on nearly 5,000 acres of land across O’ahu, as well as more than 1,250 acres of undeveloped land, the announcement said.
“Her skillset represents the necessary mix of pursuing what is right by the public with an intimate understanding of the government process,” Blangiardi added.”We have many issues facing our public lands, and she is absolutely the right person to take charge and work with our City team to address them.”
As director-designate over the past several weeks since her appointment by Blangiardi, Thielen has been familiarizing herself with the vast and diverse department, conducting site visits, and meeting staff in all divisions, the announcement said.
Thielen’s immediate predecessor as DPR director, Michele K. Nekota, who headed the department from 2014 through 2020, is now serving as DPR deputy director.
A graduate of Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, she holds a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix-Salt Lake City.
Before returning home to Honolulu in 2014, Nekota served as Parks and Recreation Administrator in Salt Lake County, Utah for 29 years. A former professional volleyball player, she is the daughter of the late Tom Nekota, a former Honolulu DPR Director.