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Abercrombie appoints Cabinet members, communications staff


Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie has appointed five Cabinet members in his first announcement on leadership positions in the Abercrombie Administration.

Abercrombie’s appointments are William J. Aila Jr. as chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources; Richard Lim as the director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Jodie Maesaka-Hirata as the director of the Department of Public Safety; and Alapaki Nahale-a and Bobby Hall as the team leading the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands as its director and deputy director, respectively.

“We are forming a team of strong leaders who are the right people to help move Hawaii out of these difficult times,” Abercrombie said. “These are talented, creative individuals who have pledged to work together to fulfill our vision of A New Day in Hawaii.”

The selections come after a process that began with every considered applicant submitting his or her resume through the transition website,

The process, led by Abercrombie Transition Director Bill Kaneko, includes input from the community and several rounds of interviews before Abercrombie makes the final decision. More than 3,500 resumes were submitted through the transition website.

“We’re continuing to receive applications from people who are inspired by Governor-Elect Abercrombie’s call for public servants,” Kaneko said. “We are making good progress on identifying and interviewing individuals for the Abercrombie administration. We continue to encourage everyone to participate by applying or providing input and advice.”

The current priority is to select directors and deputy directors through this transition process. Department directors will have to be confirmed by the State Senate.


WILLIAM J. AILA JR. (DLNR) is the longtime and respected harbor agent for Waianae Boat Harbor.

Aila, 52, has worked for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for more than 23 years in the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. His responsibilities include managing, operating and maintaining 31 acres of fast and submerged lands.

Aila has served on national, state and community advisory groups for more than 20 years, which has given him the opportunity to interact and listen to concerns expressed by different stakeholders affected by DLNR regulations and policies.

As president of Mohala I Ka Wai, Aila worked with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Army, community groups and private landowners to create the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting Hawaii’s forest, streams and drinking water.

Aila, a Waianae High School graduate, received his Bachelor’s degree in General Tropical Agriculture from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

RICHARD LIM (DBEDT) has more than 30 years of experience in banking and financial services.

Lim, 59, is a co-founder of Sennet Capital, a Hawaii-based merchant banking firm that provides assistance to Hawaii companies with respect to mergers and acquisitions, capital sourcing and strategic planning.

Prior to founding Sennet Capital, he was the president and chief operating officer of City Bank until its merger with Central Pacific Bank in 2004. Lim came to City Bank via International Holding Capital Corporation (the parent of International Savings and Loan) where he was president and chief operating officer from 1987 to 1994.

Lim has been an active member of the community and currently serves on the boards of the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs, the Pacific Asian Affairs Council, the Hawaii Technology Development Venture, the Korean American Foundation and the board of governors of Chaminade University.

Earlier in his career, he served on a number of boards and organizations that provide him with a broad perspective of Hawaii economy, including the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, the Community Based Economic Development board, HiBeam, UH Connections and Enterprise Honolulu.

Lim holds degrees from Santa Clara University and Chaminade University.

JODIE MAESAKA-HIRATA (Public Safety), an 18-year veteran of the state Department of Public Safety, is the acting warden of Waiawa Correctional Facility.

In August 2008, with the support of the surrounding community, Maesaka-Hirata launched an offender re-entry program that successfully reintegrated offenders by providing them job experience while they were still incarcerated.

Maesaka-Hirata first began her work in public service at Halawa Correctional Facility in 1989 as a social worker.

Maesaka-Hirata, 44, a Pearl City High School graduate, received her Bachelor’s degree in social work from UH-Manoa and her Master’s degree in criminal justice administrator from Chaminade University.

ALAPAKI NAHALE-A (DHHL Director), a Hilo resident, is the Executive Director of the Hawaii Charter Schools Network, which provides support for Hawaii’s charter schools and the charter school movement.

Prior to this, he was the director of a Native Hawaiian community driven public charter school Ka Umeke Kaeo in Hilo for six years.

Nahale-a, 42, is also a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Commissioner, a Hawaii County Charter Commissioner, and a board member for the Kuikahi Mediation Center.

Nahale-a also has held a series of community development positions with Hawaii Community College, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation. He served the Hawaii County Council for five years as a legislative auditor assistant and fiscal/program review auditor.

Nahale-a graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1986 and then earned his Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

BOBBY HALL (DHHL Deputy) has more than 30 years of service with the State of Hawaii, including 15 years at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Hall, 57, began working at the state as a clerk at DHHL. His expertise is in affordable housing, development, construction, community relations and financing.

His accomplishments include developing the initial concept and scope for DHHL’s Home Ownership Assistance Program (HOAP), which assists Native Hawaiian families to become successful homeowners; and forming the first public housing Neighborhood Watch Program at Mayor Wright homes, which paved the way for other programs like Weed and Seed, that won him a national award in 1989 for drug prevention from U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

A graduate of Saint Louis High School, Hall studied Hawaiian Studies and liberal arts at UH-Manoa.


Abercrombie also announced three key communications positions in Governor’s Office: Josh Levinson, communications director; Laurie Au, deputy communications director; and Donalyn Dela Cruz, press secretary.

“Our campaign began a long conversation with the people of Hawaii that will continue in the Governor’s Office,” Abercrombie said. “Our team will inform and engage the public with the goal of building community in Hawaii.”

Levinson will oversee the governor’s communications team, coordinating all aspects of communications between the Office of the Governor and the public and state government.

Levinson, the field organizer for the Abercrombie for Governor campaign, will be the third generation in his family to work for the State of Hawaii. Prior to the campaign, he was president and chief executive officer of Community Links Hawaii.

Levinson, 34, was the deputy director of a public interest advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., before moving back home to Hawaii with his wife and two young children. He is a graduate of Punahou School, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Laurie Au, press secretary for the Abercrombie for Governor campaign, will be the deputy communications director. She will be the team’s primary writer, policy researcher and member of the media strategy team.

Au, 26, is a former reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and a graduate of Pearl City High School and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dela Cruz will be the governor’s spokesperson and primary media contact when Abercrombie is sworn in Dec. 6. Dela Cruz is the public affairs director for Bishop Museum and senior associate for the native advocacy firm, TiLeaf Group.

She has also served as press secretary to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka and Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Dela Cruz, 35, worked at KHON as a reporter, producer and associate producer.

Dela Cruz, a graduate of Leilehua High School, received her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Abercrombie was scheduled to depart Monday evening to attend the Democratic Governors Association Annual Meeting on Dec. 1 in Washington, D.C.

Abercrombie will also attend a Dec. 2 meeting at the White House for governors-elect and return Friday, Dec. 3 to Honolulu.

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