New leadership at OHA

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs begins a major transition today with Collette Machado expected to take over as chairwoman of the board of trustees from Haunani Apoliona after the board is sworn in for a new term.

Apoliona was first elected an OHA trustee in 1996 and has been the 30-year-old agency’s longest-serving chair at nearly 10 years.

She and her majority group are credited with leading OHA to an unprecedented era of stability and professionalism after two decades of chaos that made the agency a public laughingstock because of endless backbiting and drama that produced little benefit for the native Hawaiians OHA serves.

State Auditor Marion Higa, who gives out few compliments, noted the changed OHA in an audit last year that praised the new focus on collegiality and competent planning.

“In the past, board members often waged political battles to the detriment of the organization and its beneficiaries,” Higa said. “Within the last decade, the contentiousness that clouded the atmosphere within OHA’s boardroom has progressively cleared. … We found a much more stable and functional organization that is focused on its strategic mission.”

Apoliona began planning for a transition in the chair after former trustee Walter Heen made two unsuccessful attempts to depose her.

The change is expected to be mostly smooth, since Machado was a member of the majority group that Apoliona led. Oswald Stender, another ally, will continue as chairman of the committee that oversees OHA’s $380 million in assets.

During the Apoliona years, the trustees have focused more on policy-making, while leaving day-to-day operations to administrator Clyde Namuo and his team.

Machado, first elected in 1996 to represent Molokai and Lanai, previously served as a member of the state Land Use Commission and the Hawaiian Homelands Commission. At OHA, she’s chaired the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment.

The agency faces daunting challenges in the new term, including dealing with the fallout from the apparent demise of the Akaka bill for Hawaiian political recognition and settling longstanding land claims with the state.

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One Comment on “New leadership at OHA”

  1. Household God Says:

    Machado’s war with Walter Ritte over Molokai Ranch led to its closure. They just couldn’t agree on which of them would get control of the lands Molokai Ranch was willing to give up in exchange for being able to develop Laau Point. 120 people lost their jobs and Molokai has the highest unemployment in the state.


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