A Hui Hou


Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina LeeAs my time at OHA comes to an end, I take a moment to reflect. I would have never thought that I would run for public office and once I became a Trustee, I never would have guessed that I would have been able to get so much accomplished in just one term.

First, I must thank the late Trustee Colette Machado. It was her belief in naming me vice-chair of the Board of Trustees and believing in my ideas to better the Board that allowed me to bring change to the governance model for OHA.

I worked with the aliʻi trusts and analyzed both our cousins to the south in Aotearoa and our cousins to the east in North America as context for Indigenous governing models. This project led to my updating of the Board of Trustee’s by-laws and continuing to begin the policy work to match the governing model.

In 2019 Chair Machado sent me to the Commonfund Institute at Yale School of Business which allowed me to recognize the inefficiencies in the Native Hawaiian Trust. Working with interim investment manager Ryan Lee and a team from Commonfund, an endowment model and policy is being considered for the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.

I then shared an idea to purchase the Hilo Hattie location on Nimitz Avenue and Chair Machado told me to buy up everything we could. She sent me to meet with a former trustee, the late Oswald Stender, to learn how he led OHA to purchase Nā Lama Kukui.

I learned so much from him that day, not just about land acquisition but what it means to be a trustee and the kuleana that I was carrying. I will forever be grateful to him for taking that time to share with me. It took me two more years, and although Hilo Hattie was not to be, this led to the acquisition of more property adjacent to Nā Lama Kukui. This has positioned OHA to be a significant player within the Transit Oriented Development Corridor for the Iwilei rail station.

The advice and counsel from former trustees Apoliona and Apo were invaluable to helping me become the best trustee I could be. Mentorship from both Chair Machado and Trustee Robert Lindsey gave me the confidence to run with ideas knowing that, should I stumble, they were there to help guide me. The friendship of Trustee Ahuna helped me not to take everything so seriously and to enjoy the moments we all shared. Working with Trustees Ahu-Isa and Waiheʻe showed that some trustees actually know the definition of collaboration and do not just use it as a reference for “I do not know what I am talking about.”

To all who shared work, lunches, and laughs with me – Kama, Kauʻi, Maria, Lady, Alvin, Priscilla, Crayn, Beimes, Dini, Anu, Lehua, Carol, Laurene, and Lopaka – mahalo for always keeping it fun.

To my staff: Zuri, you will always be my “Sam Seaborne” – no one can debate with me better – it was your sharp intellect that polished all our work; Alyssa, even though it was for a short time, I never doubted your intellect and that is why we needed your help with all that policy work; Dayna, all that institutional knowledge was invaluable over the last two years; and Lei-Ann, you were there for me from the very beginning, through laughter, through tears, through it all, it was you, my moana, that kept me grounded I absolutely could not have done it all without you.

To all who supported and believed in me, this is not goodbye, but a hui hou…