East Hawaii News

Arizona Archaeologist Taking Over Troubled State Agency

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A veteran archaeologist from the mainland has been chosen to take over the beleaguered State Historic Preservation Division.

William Aila Jr., head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, announced the selection of Alan S. Downer today.

Downer served for 27 years as director of the Navajo Nations Historic Preservation Department in Window Rock, Ariz., Aila said in a statement. Downer was hired in 1986 to establish what would become the first tribal historic preservation agency in the US.

“With extensive experience as director for one of the nation’s largest historic preservation agencies, Downer brings tremendous experience in leadership to the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division,” Aila said. “I also believe his qualifications will provide SHPD with much needed direction on working with the National Park Service to meet requirements under its Corrective Action Plan.”

The division’s previous administrator, Pua Aiu, resigned in July, shortly after the National Park Service released a report critical of SHPD’s efforts to comply with the terms of the 2010 plan.

The park service had given the division two years to beef up its staff and clear a backlog of historic property applications. It said failure to do so could jeopardize federal funding. The deadline was later extended although SHPD remained on “high risk” status.

The National Park Service has scheduled another program review for the state agency in June 2014.

Aiu had served as head of SHPD for five years.

Downer received his Bachelor of Science in Geology from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.; and his Masters in Anthropological Archeology and his PhD in Applied Anthropology from University of Missouri–Columbia.


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