Jun 1 – Observers see the inclusion of outspoken former Governor Neil Abercrombie among the three appointees to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents as having the potential to cause at least some measured culture change on the board and at the university . relationship with some state senators.
Observers believe that the inclusion of former Governor Neil Abercrombie among the three appointees to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents has the potential to cause at least some change in the board’s measured culture and in the university’s relationship with some state. senators
Abercrombie, along with attorney Lauren Akitake and Global Resiliency Hub CEO Alapaki Nahale-a, were announced Wednesday as interim appointees for Governor Josh Green to serve five-year terms beginning July 1, subject to the State Senate confirmation.
The 11-member Board of Regents is the governing body of the 10-campus UH system, which has an operating budget of more than $1 billion and 7,900 employees serving nearly 45,000 students.
Abercrombie, seen as a community advocate by some and a maverick by others during his five-decade career in public service, “will certainly be assertive on the board, because that’s the kind of person he is, but there are two other things that I think are important here,” said political analyst Neal Milner. “One is the … organizational culture of the regents, and the other is the organizational culture of the (state) Senate.”
UH has been in a tug-of-war with the state Legislature over home rule for years, and has come under intense scrutiny from some lawmakers, including state Sens. Donna Mercado Kim, Donovan Dela Cruz and Michelle Kidani. Each of the three has said in previous interviews that UH President David Lassner’s time as chief administrator of Hawaii’s only public university takes its course from him.
The board has tended to be cautious, Milner said, and is also losing outgoing board chairman Randy Moore, who has a calm tone and leadership style. While adding an outspoken and influential regent like Abercrombie won’t drastically change the board or its standing with lawmakers overnight, “he certainly can have influence, he’s not going to stay silent,” Milner said.
Abercrombie served one term as governor between 2010 and 2014 before losing his re-election bid to David Ige. Abercrombie has also served in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, the US Congress and the Honolulu City Council. He is an author and former UH faculty member who has an MA in Sociology and a Ph.D. in American Studies from UH.
“He understands the university system,” said Christian Fern, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which has endorsed Abercrombie in past elections. “He has a lot of past experience there. So I think he brings all that knowledge, background and wisdom to the Board of Regents, which will be, I think, a fresh voice.”
Fern also said he was glad to see a Candidate Advisory Council retained to select and present candidates for Governor. Some lawmakers, including Kim, have tried to kill off the council. “We think it’s important to have a third-party review,” Fern said.
Abercrombie holds a position in Honolulu County; Akitake, a Maui county seat; and Nahale-a, a county seat in Hawaii.
The appointments of Nahale-a and Akitake continue a trend toward diversifying the UH board, which used to include mostly older white men.
“Having a larger, more diverse board of directors that is representative of the people of Hawaii is important,” Fern said.
Nahale-a is current Regent and Vice President. She has also been known as a calming force on the board and an advocate for Native Hawaiian issues. Her Global Resilience Center at ‘Iole in Kohala manages a historic 2,408-acre ahupua’a and is “shaping how regenerative governance can create a world that is not just sustainable, but regenerative, leading to abundance for people.” and the environment”. said a news release from the governor’s office.
Nahale-a’s previous positions in more than 30 years of community service include director and chair of the state’s Department of Native Hawaiian Lands, and roles in Kamehameha schools, community boards and commissions. A native of Hilo and a 1986 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, he has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Akitake is a private practice attorney and per diem district court judge who taught business law at UH Maui College. Originally from Maui, she earned her J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law, an MS in applied social research from the University of Stirling, Scotland, and a BA in public policy analysis/policy from Pomona College in California. . She graduated in 1999 as valedictorian from Baldwin High School.