Guam – Guam-born Hawaiian Esther Kia’aina tapped by President Obama to be the next Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Affairs, touted her strong island roots and government experience at her Senate confirmation hearing.
Kia’aina, now a Hawaii Public Lands Official, was introduced at her Senate Energy Committee hearing by Hawaii Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz but it was her Guam roots that Kia’aina focused on.
Kia’aina said, “While my parents are originally from Hawaii, I was born at the US Naval Hospital on Guam, as my father worked for the US Navy in a civilian capacity…my initial years were spent in the village of Asan, where I lived right across from Asan Beach, which was the location where the 3rd Marine Division landed, during the liberation of Guam from enemy forces, during World War II.”
Kia’aina graduated from San Vicente Elementary and Junior High School.
The next expected U.S. Asisstant Secretary for Insular Affairs called her formative years on Guam, “some of the best years of my life.”
Kia’aina said, “I still remember with fondness and gratitude, the guidance and support of the School of Sisters of Notre Dame, who helped to shape my views of the world. These nuns were Sister Mary Bernard, Sister Mary Joseph, Sister Mary Wan, Sister Fidelis and Sister Rozine. Si Yu’us ma’ase, sisters, for all that you have done for me.”
Kia’aina rose from humble roots to a nearly 20-year career in Washington working for former Senator Daniel Akaka and Representative Ed Case of Hawaii and Guam Delegate Robert Underwood.
She worked on Guam lands, war claims, compact impact, higher education and brown tree snake bills.
Kia’ana said, “I believe I have a good understanding of the continuing need to strengthen bilateral federal relationships with each jurisdiction, promote economic development, increase government efficiency and transparency, foster sound natural resources management practices, advance alternative energy goals, and improve quality of life issues.”
Ki’aina promised if confirmed to work with local, congressional and federal officials on these, plus climate change, immigration and renewal of the Palau compact.
Senate energy could vote on Kia’ana in the next few weeks, with possible full Senate action before the full body recesses for the holidays next month.