Kia`aina Unanimously Approved for Interior Post
Esther Kia`aina, a former Hawaii official with extensive congressional experience, was confirmed today by the US Senate as assistant secretary for insular affairs.
The voice vote was unanimous for the former chief deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“The Senate’s overwhelming support for Esther’s nomination speaks to her strong qualifications to serve as DOI Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs,” US Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a statement. “I have no doubt she will serve with distinction and make Hawaii proud.”
Sen. Brian Schatz said President’s Obama nomination of Kia`aina was a “testament to her distinguished career and expertise on Native Hawaiian issues and land management.”
“Esther is an exceptional addition to the Department of the Interior and will serve well as assistant secretary,” he said.
The Office of Insular Affairs has administrative responsibility for federal policy in the territories of American Samoa, Guam, US Virgin Islands and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
It also oversees US assistance in the Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association.
Kia`aina received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and a law degree from George Washington University Law School.
Prior to the DLNR post, she served two two-year stints as chief advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and before that was land asset manager for Kamehameha Schools.
Kia`aina had previously served as chief of staff for former Rep. Ed Case and for Guam Rep. Robert Underwood. From 1990 to 1999, she was a legislative assistant for Sen. Daniel Akaka.
She was also one of three finalists to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye in 2012.