Gov. Josh Green has named former Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson to steer the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, an agency that has struggled for decades to build enough homes for Native Hawaiians to live in under a century-old act of Congress.

Anderson, if confirmed by the state Senate, replaces outgoing Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman William Aila, who has led the department since 2020 and was previously its deputy director. Anderson ran for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary last August against Sylvia Luke, who won the race and now serves as Green’s LG. Anderson received about $3 million in outside support from a super PAC with ties to the local construction union during the race.

As commission chairman, he’ll have significant influence in deciding how the state should spend $600 million allocated by the Legislature to help reduce the number of applicants on the DHHL waitlist, currently around 28,000.

“My mandate is to house DHHL beneficiaries and to shorten the waitlist, and I intend to work with Governor Green to do just that. My top priority is housing my people,” Anderson, who is Hawaiian and lives near homesteading communities in Waimanalo, said in an interview Monday.

Ikaika Anderson announces his run for Lt. Governor at Kailua Beach Park.
Ikaika Anderson is Gov. Josh Green’s pick to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Green picked Katie Lambert Ducatt, a deputy attorney general who has worked on DHHL legal cases, to be Anderson’s deputy.

The governor announced a slew of appointments Monday, including Sharon Hurd, a Department of Agriculture employee of 14 years who’s now expected to serve as its new director. If confirmed, she replaces Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser.

Green also picked environmental consultant and land use commissioner Dawn Chang to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which puts her in a key role in deciding land use policy and conservation efforts as the chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

“Today’s nominees and appointments join a group of high caliber individuals with strengths in their respective fields. Together, the cabinet will work to make housing more affordable, bring down the cost of living, and work every day to make government more efficient through strong communication and collaboration,” Green said in a press release announcing the new Cabinet members.

Green has now filled 40 of 45 Cabinet positions, including the heads of each major state department. He previously announced heads for the other state departments on Dec. 1. All are subject to Senate confirmation, set to take place sometime in the spring.

He has so far chosen either long-time state employees to fill roles leading their departments, or picked Cabinet members from the administrations of former Govs. Neil Abercrombie and David Ige.

Anderson would be the first pick that doesn’t necessarily fit that mold. He was a city councilman between 2009 and 2021, when he abruptly left the council and took a job with the local plasterers and masons union. He later worked as a consultant before running for LG.

Anderson said he did not apply for the DHHL position but was contacted by Green’s transition team on Dec. 2 and first met with them last week. Promising to be the “People’s Chairman,” Anderson said he’d make himself accessible to beneficiaries and the public while carrying out the more than 100-year-old mandate to house Hawaiians.

That mandate got a boost from the Legislature earlier this year in the form of $600 million.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission approved a spending plan that allocated most of the money to lot development, but not necessarily building homes. The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations has also put forward a plan that would allocate $345 million to purchasing land or housing units and $138 million to fund programs like downpayment assistance, among other initiatives.

“I think that both plans have merit,” Anderson said, adding that he’s still working out initiatives with Green.

He has a few ideas too, including acquiring developable land and investing in rental units for waitlisters. He also wants to see denser developments, like vertical apartment units, and other housing projects built around transit oriented development areas for the city’s rail project.

Also included in Green’s latest round of appointments is Dean Hazama, who will leave his current job as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s latest finance director next week to serve as deputy director for the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Hazama had been in the HART role for just under a year, and he took that job after serving as finance committee chair on HART’s board. Hazama had also previously worked at DCCA.

Hazama is one of at least four people to have served as finance director at HART, an agency which has seen heavy turnover since its 2011 inception. His responsibilities will be shared by various agency members in the near term, according to HART Executive Director Lori Kahikina.

Green’s other appointments announced Monday include:

  • Laura Ka‘akua, president and CEO of the Hawaii Land Trust, was picked as DLNR first deputy
  • Gordon Ito is tapped to return as the state’s insurance commissioner for DCCA. Ito was previously insurance commissioner from 2009 to 2019
  • Tammy Lee, a Department of Transportation administrative services officer, would be DOT first deputy
  • Dre Kalili was picked as deputy director for DOT harbors
  • Robin Shishido would be deputy director for DOT highways
  • Billy Oku, the state sheriff, was picked as deputy director of law enforcement for the Department of Public Safety
  • Mark Hanohano, the harbor police chief, was tapped to be the new state sheriff
  • Michael Vincent was chosen as deputy director of administration for the new Department of Law Enforcement
  • William Kunstman was picked as deputy director for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
  • Kristen Sakamoto was tapped as deputy director for the tax department
  • State Energy Officer Scott Glenn was picked to be director of the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development
  • James Koshiba was chosen to be the governor’s homeless coordinator

Civil Beat reporter Marcel Honore contributed to this report.

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