Esther’s Experience

Esther has an unmatched depth of policy experience that will benefit all Native Hawaiians. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Pacific Basin Development Council, where she helps address economic and social development in the Pacific Islands. Prior to this, she worked for President Barack Obama, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Interior. Esther’s background also includes serving as First Deputy at Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and working for Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressmen Ed Case and Robert Underwood.

To ensure OHA works for Native Hawaiians, we must elect a Trustee who has the knowledge and experience to get to work on day one. That person is Esther Kiaʻāina. Below is a small snapshot of just some of her accomplishments:

  • Worked to trigger the Reconciliation Process called for under the Apology Resolution between Native Hawaiians and the Federal Government.
  • Fought for the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act which provided over $100 million in federal land compensation.
  • Increased funding for The Rain Follows the Forest initiative to protect Hawaiʻi’s forests, watersheds and fresh water supplies.
  • Helped establish a separate category for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders under the Office of Management and Budget federal guidelines for racial and ethnic data collection.
  • Secured inclusion of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in the private Gates Millennium Scholarship program.
  • Drafted legislation that increased funding to Asian and Pacific Islander higher education serving institutions.
  • Established the U.S. Territories Invasive Species Coordinating Committee with the Governors of Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and U.S. Virgin Islands to improve coordination of invasive species management issues in the U.S. Territories.