Gov. Josh Green appointed housing developer Kali Watson as the new chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and director of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, a post Watson held under former Gov. Ben Cayetano in the 1990s.

Watson will replace Ikaika Anderson, who withdrew his nomination Feb. 15 after the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee voted against him.

During his previous tenure, Watson oversaw the transfer of more than 16,000 acres of land to the DHHL land trust and developed more than 3,100 residential lots for homesteaders, according to the press release.

Kali Watson has been nominated to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. (Office of the Governor)

He’s since created the Hawaiian Community Development Board, a nonprofit focused on developing housing units. Its projects include developments in Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Halawa and Kihei.

“Kali has a proven track record of housing Native Hawaiians, both as leader of DHHL and as head of his nonprofit,” Green said in the press release. “I am hopeful that state senators and our communities will be supportive of his nomination as we face a critical time in Hawai‘i. Kali has the track record to provide stewardship for the $600 million DHHL appropriation.”

Lingering questions over how Anderson planned to potentially alter DHHL’s spending plan helped to tank his nomination.

Even though Green appointed Watson, Anderson will still stay in office for the time being. The press release said Anderson will continue to serve as DHHL director and chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission until Watson is confirmed by the Senate and sworn in, or until session ends May 5, whichever comes first.

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