Changing of the Guard at OHA

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

In this month’s article I want to mahalo former CEO Sylvia Hussey and welcome our new Interim CEO Colin Kippen.

Sylvia came to OHA from the Native Hawaiian Education Council. Before that she worked at Kamehameha Schools for over a decade. She was born and raised in Kohala. Her family lived in Niuliʻi near the Pololū lookout. She graduated from Kohala High School and later obtained a bachelor’s in accounting from BYU-Hawaiʻi and masters and doctoral degrees from UH-Mānoa College of Education. She came to OHA as a CPA (certified public accountant) with significant experience. She resigned last month.

Sylvia started at OHA in November 2018 as the chief operating officer and interim chief advocate. In July 2019 she was named interim CEO for OHA and in December 2019 she was appointed our permanent CEO.

Sylvia is one of the few executive OHA employees who did not leave their job at OHA following the three damning audits undertaken by the state, CLA and Plante Moran. These audits flagged numerous transactions for fraud, waste and abuse.

The last audit by Plante Moran was difficult because records were missing, and emails had to be tracked. Sylvia supported corporate counsel who worked with Plante Moran on the details, facilitated a full briefing for the Board, and supported the Board’s decision to forward the data to federal investigators and hold a press conference for our beneficiaries.

I am thankful to Sylvia for her tireless service and dedication to our people and community. Her approach was to work with our Board to align policy, procedure and practice.

She facilitated the development of OHA’s 2020-2035 strategic plan which incorporates the strategic foundations of ʻohana, moʻomeheu and ʻāina and continuing strategic directions of education, health, housing and economic stability. She oversaw OHA’s Covid-19 effort, which worked to facilitate beneficiary and community supports including meals, emergency aid and grants. Sylvia helped OHA reduce overhead costs and increase beneficiary and community investments and services.

Mahalo. Good job, Sylvia. Thank you so much for your years of service. I will miss you at OHA.

I also want to welcome Colin Kippen, our new interim CEO, back to OHA.

Colin was born and raised in Hawaiʻi, received his BA in political science and obtained his masters in urban and regional planning and a law degree from Iowa University. He has served as a member of the President’s Commission on Scholars under the Obama administration and as a member of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee under the Bush administration. He is a longstanding member of the Prince Kūhiō Hawaiian Civic Club.

Colin served as Dan Inouye’s staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and served as the Executive Director of both the National Indian Education Association and the Native Hawaiian Education Council. From 2012-2015 Colin was the Hawaiʻi State Homeless Coordinator and Chair of the Hawaiʻi Interagency Council on Homelessness. Colin has also worked for the Hawaiʻi State Senate and the Honolulu City Council. He was a trial attorney and the chief judge for a Native American tribe in the Seattle area before returning home to Hawaiʻi.

Colin has previously worked for OHA as the deputy administrator in charge of advocating for Hawaiian rights and most recently as the Board of Trustees’ chief of staff.

It’s been my great good fortune to work with Hawaiians like Sylvia Hussey and Colin Kippen. They are dedicated, talented and want to uplift our people. If this interests you, check out the OHA web site. We have many vacancies to fill.

Aloha, Mililani