Esther Puakela Kia’aina, Native Hawaiian, was nominated on September 10, 2013 to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas at the U.S. Department of the Interior. On June 26, the United States Senate confirmed Kia’aina for the position.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell commended the confirmation saying, “Esther will bring considerable expertise to the issues facing the U.S. territories and the freely associated states, and I am pleased the Senate has voted to confirm her to this important leadership post at the Interior Department.”
According to a DoI press release at the time of her nomination, Kia’aina will lead the DoI’s efforts to coordinate federal policy for Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Her responsibilities will include the administration and oversight of federal assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau.
Kia’aina was born in Guam to Native Hawaiian parents, and recently served as the First Deputy Director of the Hawai’I Department of Land and Natural Resources. Her duties included the management of 1.3 million acres of public lands and near shore ocean resources in the State of Hawai’i. She brings a wealth of knowledge through working on watershed management protection initiatives, threatened and endangered species protection, invasive species control, land and ocean preservation, and strengthening public-private and enforcement partnerships.
“Esther has strong connections to Pacific islands and extensive experience on Capitol Hill,” Jewell said. “She will be a valuable asset to this Department as we work with island leaders, the White House Interagency Group on Insular Areas, and partners across the federal government to further the islands’ social and economic progress.”