OHA incumbents face challengers

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HILO — Two incumbents face challengers in the final two races for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.


HILO — Two incumbents face challengers in the final two races for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

All OHA trustees are elected statewide, although some trustees are elected to residency seats on the nine-member board. Others are elected as at-large representatives.

The office, created in 1978, is a semi-autonomous agency of the state, charged with managing the land and resources, mineral rights and income belonging to the Native Hawaiian people. The Board of Trustees also formulates policy relating to affairs of Native Hawaiians and advocates their interests.

Non-Hawaiians as well as Hawaiians are eligible to run for and vote for the Board of Trustees.

Hawaii Island resident Trustee Robert Lindsey is challenged by Mililani Trask for the Hawaii Island residency seat.

Lindsey, 68, is a full-time trustee and former state legislator who lives in Waimea. A Kamehameha Schools graduate, he went on to get a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A former ranger of the National Park Service, he retired from Kamehameha Schools as director of the Land Assets Division on the Big Island.

Dubbed “Uncle Bob” by his supporters, Lindsey has served on the OHA board since 2007 and is currently chairman. He said he advocates a platform of ethics and transparency.

“I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” Lindsey said.

The biggest difference between Lindsey and his challenger, he said, is that he tends “to be more diplomatic.”

“I have a good working relationship with our CEO and our board,” Lindsey said. “For OHA to be all it can be for our people, we need to have that kind of unity.”

Website: http://www.bob4oha.com


Trask, 65, is an attorney and consultant who lives in Hilo. She’s served in national and international capacities on indigenous issues, including United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Indigenous Women’s Network and the Federal Estate Land Trust Task Force on Hawaiian Homelands.

A Kamehameha Schools graduate, she went on to get a bachelor’s degree in political science at San Jose State University and her law degree from the University of Santa Clara in California.

“I am a firm believer in the power of thoughtful, well-grounded public policy that reflects the input of those whose lives will be shaped by those policies,” Trask says on her website.

She did not respond to messages left on her phone and email by press time.

Website: http://www.trask4oha.com


In the at-large seat on the ballot, incumbent Haunani Apoliona is challenged by Kelii Akina.

Apoliona, 67, is a 20-year incumbent on the OHA Board of Trustees and previously served as its chairwoman. She’s served on the President’s Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, was the director of the Board Executive Committee for the Bernice Pauahi Foundation and director of the Queen Emma Foundation.

She earned a master’s degree in social work, a certificate in public administration and bachelor’s degrees in sociology and Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She lives in Waahila, Oahu.

“What sets me apart from my opponent in this election is my experience as an OHA trustee and my credibility with the Native Hawaiian community,” Apoliona said. “My commitment to high standards of ethics, transparency and accountability are also well known to OHA beneficiaries. These are all qualities I bring to OHA as a Trustee with strategic vision, contributing to an environment, where Native Hawaiian families and Hawaii have the opportunity to thrive.”

Website: http://www.apoliona.org/


Akina, 58, is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a conservative think tank. He’s also been president and CEO of Youth for Christ Hawaii; and president and founder of Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders.

A Kamehameha Schools graduate, he earned his master’s and doctorate in philosophy and ethics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a bachelor’s from Northwestern University.

He lives in Honolulu.


“My opponent should be thanked and appreciated for her two decades of service, but the time has come when OHA desperately needs new leadership, and that is what I will bring,” Akina said. “Specifically, OHA needs a watchdog who can expose and stop the trustees’ squandering of the Native Hawaiian trust fund and instead use those funds to meet the real needs of Hawaiians for housing, jobs, education, health care.”

Website: http://www.keliiakina.com/

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