The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees selected Carmen Hulu Lindsey to be its chairwoman at a meeting Thursday.
Lindsey is taking over the board’s top leadership position from former chair and OHA trustee Colette Machado, who lost her bid for reelection in November after serving at OHA for more than two decades.
In a speech, Lindsey promised to work with the other trustees to build cohesion within OHA and work with other state agencies. She brought attention to OHA’s new strategic plan, which places an emphasis on education, housing and economic stability.
Lindsey, who represents Maui on the board, was first elected in 2012. Previously, she worked at the Maui Land & Pineapple Company and was also a land administrator in Maui County.
The vote on Lindsey’s nomination was 7-to-1, with Trustee Brendon Lee casting the only “no” vote.
Lee was the former vice chair under Machado, who was unseated in the November election by Luana Alapa.
Lee asked that the selection of a new chair be delayed until Friday to allow more time for an election challenge in Kelii Akina’s race to be resolved, but his request was voted down by a majority of the board.
Akina, the presumed victor in the race for an at-large seat on the board, can’t be seated because his opponent in the race, Keoni Souza, filed an elections challenge seeking to overturn the results.
The case is still pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Lee raised issues with Lindsey’s participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea where she was arrested along with more than 30 other kupuna last July. Lee said that she missed meetings of an OHA working group to attend the protest.
A majority of the board also selected Lei Ahu Isa to be vice chair of the board, with Lee again casting the only “no” vote.
Dan Ahuna voted “kanalua,” which allows board members to see how others vote before casting their own vote. When Ahuna voted “kanalua” a second time, his vote was recorded as an abstention.
Lee said that in 2019, Ahu Isa missed 22 meetings, more than any other trustee. Ahu Isa responded, saying she missed many of those meetings because she had heart surgery last year and needed time to recover.
At the meeting, Lindsey appointed Kalei Akaka to chair the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment as well as John Waihee IV to chair the Committee on Resource Management.
Lee also voted “no” on both of those nominations. And when it came time to adjourn Thursday’s meeting, he voted “no” on that as well.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell