William Aila Jr. is the director of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Before Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed him to the post, Aila was the Waianae Boat Harbormaster and an active community organizer, focusing on environmental and Hawaiian cultural issues.
The department oversees 67 state parks, 45 small boat harbors, ramps, and piers, and 600 miles of trails. It faces a backlog of more than $240 million in repairs for state parks, boat harbors and trails.
To raise funds, DLNR has proposed charging entry fees for state parks that are currently free. Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island recently implemented a fee for non-residents and commercial vehicles.
Aila was born on March 6, 1958 in Honolulu. He graduated from Waianae High School in 1976 and earned a bachelor of science in tropical agriculture from the University of Hawaii in 1980. Aila is married and has two children.
Aila most recently worked as Waianae Boat Harbor harbormaster. Prior to working at the harbor, Aila was a storeroom clerk for the Honolulu Police Department and a former reserve stock manager for Liberty House distribution center, among other jobs.
In 2005, Aila was held in contempt of court by a federal judge for his association with Hui Malama I Na Kupuna ‘O Hawaii Nei, an organization dedicated to repatriating and reburying Native Hawaiian possessions and bones. Aila was a board member for the organization, which was accused of borrowing 83 cultural artifacts from the Bishop Museum and never returning them — instead, they buried them in caves on the Big Island. The group denied a court order to return the objects.
As a community organizer, Aila also opposed the presence of Stryker brigades in Hawaii and protested the use of Waianae’s Makua Valley for military purposes. Directing the DLNR means he now must work with them on land and conservation issues. The Army oversees endangered plant and animal species in military land in the Koolau and Waianae mountains.
Aila has been an active member of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, board member for Hui Malama, and board member for Ka Papa O Kakuhihewa — a group that funds Leeward education and conservation projects. He also ran for governor of Hawaii in 2006.