Esther Kia'aina goes up for confirmation hearing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Esther Kia'aina goes up for confirmation hearing

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - From drawing on her childhood on Guam to committing to advance issues affecting the territories, Hawaiian native Esther Kia'aina went up for her confirmation hearing this morning to serve as the next assistant secretary for insular areas.

Adorned in a flower lei, Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources first deputy went up for her confirmation hearing before the U.S Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The native Hawaiian was born in Guam and instantly drew on her childhood residing in Asan and Mangilao, having attended the San Vicente Elementary and Junior High School. "Those formative years were some of the best years of my life," she said.

Born to native Hawaiian parents, Kia'aina said it was the guidance of the School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns, who helped shaped her views of the world leading her to believe it was full of opportunities. "I could not have envisioned the opportunity of being here today to be considered for a post that will oversee the coordination of federal policy and financial assistance toward the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and to give back to a region that has been so good to me and my family," she said.

Kia'aina has an extensive background and a successful career on Capitol Hill and has worked specifically on issues for the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States and worked with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and the House Resources Committee. She told committee members that in her current position has provided a better understanding of Hawaii's role in working with the insular areas along with strengthening bilateral federal relationships with each jurisdiction.

Just as chairman Ron Wyden rose in favor of Kia'aina as did ranking member Lisa Murkowski who stood by her nomination, so did officials from her home state such as Senator Mazie Hirono. "It's because of her work, her knowledge of the area, the issues and the people that her nomination to serve as the assistant secretary for insular areas is so appropriate," she said.

Kia'aina meanwhile says she would take a comprehensive approach when it comes to environmental issues such as the degradation of our coral reefs and committed to working with the committee to find viable offsets for assistance to Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. "Should I be confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, I commit to working to advance these issues in concern with island leaders, the Congressional committees of jurisdiction, Interior's leadership team and other federal agencies," she said.

If confirmed, Kia'aina would lead the department's efforts to coordinate federal policy for Guam, the CNMI, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The position was previously held by former Guam resident Tony Babauta. 

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