Home > The KIRC Team

Contents of this page:



The Legislature created the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to manage the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve while it is held in trust for a future Native Hawaiian sovereign entity. The KIRC uses the federal funds designated for State responsibilities in the restoration effort. The KIRC is administratively attached to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes 6K sets forth the composition of the KIRC. One member shall be selected by the Governor of the State of Hawaiʻi from lists submitted by Native Hawaiian organizations, one member shall be a reprsentative of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one member shall be the Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaiʻi, one member shall be a representative of the County of Maui, one member shall be a member of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, and two members shall be selected by the Governor form a list submitted by the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana. The Chair of the KIRC shall be selected from among the members by the Governor.

The KIRC also maintains staff to assist it in its restoration and management of the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve.

Click on any image below to view bio.





Michele McLean

County of Maui
Term expires June 30, 2015

Michele Chouteau McLean is the Deputy Planning Director for the County of Maui and is the County's representative on the KIRC.

She was previously the Deputy Director for the KIRC, where she worked for more than five years and was responsible for procurement, contracting, budget administration and overseeing the Restoration and Ocean programs and day-to-day operations.

Before joining the KIRC, Michele was a land use planner and consultant in the private sector, as well as a analyst for the Maui County Council, specializing in planning issues. Prior to moving to Maui to be closer to her family, she spent six years in Washington, D.C., as a legislative aide and research analyst in the U.S. House of Representatives. Michele graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Political Science and studied for one year in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Maui Campus.

William J. Aila Jr.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Chairperson

William J. Aila Jr. is a member of KIRC as the Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

In assuming the duties of Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources - responsible for managing Hawaii's unique and fragile natural and cultural resources - William J. Aila Jr. comes to Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission well-credentialed.

William J. Aila Jr. is the longtime and respected harbor agent for Waianae Boat Harbor. Mr. Aila, 52, has worked for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for more than 23 years in the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. His responsibilities include managing, operating and maintaining 31 acres of fast and submerged lands. Mr. Aila has served on national, state and community advisory groups for more than 20 years, which has given him the opportunity to interact and listen to concerns expressed by different stakeholders affected by DLNR regulations and policies.

As president of Mohala I Ka Wai, Mr. Aila worked with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Army, community groups and private landowners to create the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting Hawaii's forest, streams and drinking water.

Mr. Aila, a Waianae High School graduate, received his Bachelor's degree in General Tropical Agriculture from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana Term expires June 30, 2015

Dr. Noa Emmett Aluli is a member of Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) and represents the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO). He has served as a KIRC Commissioner since 1993.

Dr. Aluli is a physician currently in private practice on Molokaʻi and serves as the Co-Medical Executive Director at Moloka'i General Hospital. Dr. Aluli is a founding member of the PKO and Na Puʻuwai, Inc., the Native Hawaiian Health Care System.

In 1976, Dr. Aluli lead a group of Native Hawaiians in occupying Kahoʻolawe to protest the island's bombing by the U.S. Navy and establish Kahoʻolawe as a symbol of the renaissance of the Hawaiian culture, including the principle of malama ʻāina, the ethic of caring for the land. Since that time, he has led the PKO through a court-ordered consent decree, signed in 1980 by the U.S. Navy and the PKO, granting access to the island and requiring the Navy to protect historic and cultural sites, clear surface ordnance, begin soil conservation programs, eradicate goats and limit future ordnance training to the central part of the island. Since 1980, the PKO has facilitated access to Kaho'olawe for native Hawaiians and the general public for religious, educational and scientific activities.

In 1990, Dr. Aluli was appointed to the congressionally established Kaho'olawe Island Conveyance Commission to establish the terms and conditions for the return of the island to the State of Hawaiʻi. In 1993, the Legislature of the State of Hawaiʻi created the KIRC. Dr. Aluli was appointed as a founding member and original chairperson of the KIRC.

During his tenure, he has overseen the conveyance of Kahoʻolawe back to the State of Hawaiʻi and helped establish the vision for the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve. The vision calls for a rebirth of the land and the ocean surrounding the island and acknowledging the island as the "crossroads of past and future generations, from which the native Hawaiian lifestyle is spread."

Dr. Aluli completed his undergraduate studies at Marquette University in Biology and Chemistry and was in the first graduating class of the John A. Burns School of Medicine in 1975. Following a year in the University of Hawaiʻi Integrated Flexible Residency program, he moved to Molokaʻi to join a Family Practice Clinic.

Christopher M. Kaliko Baker

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2013

Christopher M. Kaliko Baker is a member of KIRC Commission as a respresentative of PKO.

A graduate of Castle High School and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), Commissioner Baker has a PhD in Linguistics and is an instructor of Hawaiian at UHM's Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. As a long-time member of the PKO, Kaliko has been part of Kahoʻolawe's history from the Navy's return of the island to its transition to State management of its natural and cultural resources. In addition, he brings to the commission his expertise in Hawaiian language and Hawaiian cultural traditions as a noted Hawaiian language playwright and lead cultural practitioner for the makahiki ceremony on Kahoʻolawe.

Commissioner Baker's dedication to perpetuating the native Hawaiian language and culture is in alignment with the KIRC's vision for Kahoʻolawe; "where the people of Hawaiʻi cares for the land in a manner which recognizes the island and ocean of Kanaloa (an ancient name for Kahoʻolawe) as a living spiritual entity. Kanaloa is a puʻuhonua (place of safety) and wahi pana (storied place) where Native Hawaiian cultural practices flourish."

Hōkūlani Holt

Native Hawaiian organization
Term expires June 30, 2016

Hōkūlani Holt is a member of KIRC Commission as its Native Hawaiian organization representative.

A graduate of Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaiʻi, Hōkūlani Holt has served the Maui community in the capacity of Hawaiian culture and language specialist since 1976. In that same year, she founded her hālau hula, Pāʻū O Hiʻiaka. She is considered a master kumu hula as and is a respected composer of mele and oli.

Holt's relationship with Kahoʻolawe began as an advocate during the movement to stop the Navy bombing practice on the island. She has a long history with the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO) and was hired by the KIRC as the cultural coordinator in 1997, tasked with designing a cultural orientation program for all workers involved with the island cleanup project, where she remained until accepting the position of Cultural Programs Director at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, where she remains today.

Holt, who also serves as President of Kauahea Inc., Vice-President of Lālākea Foundation and on committees of the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau, Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, has participated as a consultant in numerous studies and plans for restoration of the island's cultural and natural resources.

Colette Y. Machado

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Term expires June 30, 2013

Currently serving her fourth term as Office of Hawaiian Affairs' (OHA) trustee for Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi, Colette Y. Machado was born at Hoʻolehua, Molokaʻi, and resides at Pūkoʻo, East Molokaʻi with her husband, Myron Akutagawa. Trustee/Commissioner Machado graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa with a bachelor's degree in Education and went on to become an accomplished educator and leader throughout the Hawaiian islands.

A Kaikamahine A Ka ʻAha (Deaconess) with Ka Hale Hoʻāno O Ke Akua Church, she has served as the chairperson of the Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment Committee since 2002 and chairperson of the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee from 1999-2001. Colette also serves as president of the Molokaʻi Land Trust and was vice-president of the Molokaʻi Enterprise Community Governance Board (EC), Ke Aupuni Lōkahi. Machado previously served two terms as the OHA representative to the KIRC where she served as both the Chair and Vice-Chair of the commission. Among her other noteworthy public service posts have been as a Hawaii State Land Use Commissioner; Hawaiian Home Lands Commissioner; Molokaʻi Burial Council; Molokaʻi Fishpond Restoration Task Force; and on the Governor's Molokaʻi Subsistence Task Force.

Amber Nāmaka Whitehead

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2012

Amber Nāmaka Whitehead is a member of KIRC Commission as a respresentative of PKO.

A 1997 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Amber Nāmaka Whitehead earned her bachelor's degree in Hawaiian Studies and Botany from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2002 and is currently is enrolled as a doctoral student in the Botany Department and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her dissertation research explores the linkages between traditional and contemporary natural resources management practices and indigenous knowledge systems, with a focus on the wild-gathering of maile. Concurrently employed as Ecologist for the Kamehameha Schools Land Assets Division, Commissioner Whitehead is responsible for Kamehameha Schools' stewardship management of natural resources across approximately 360,000 acres of land on Hawaiʻi, Maui, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi.

As an active member of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana for more than 14 years, Commissioner Whitehead progressively assumed more responsibility including supervision of and direction for participants who access Kahoʻolawe with the ʻOhana as well as for the overall operations of the ʻOhana and caring for the island itself - duties as varied as reconstruction of the traditional pili and ʻōhiʻa Hale Hālāwai (meeting house) at Hakioawa to intensive access guide training.

Trained and knowledgeable in Native Hawaiian traditional customs and practices that are so closely entwined with restoration of the cultural resources of Kahoʻolawe, in 2004, she undertook intensive access guide training which included the identification of unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as safety and health procedures to provide for the safe experience of Kahoʻolawe visitors. With her extensive background, Ms. Whitehead brings first-hand cultural awareness as well as knowledge of UXO and the health and safety risks and challenges that KIRC staffers regularly confront to her role as a policy maker on the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.

Commissioner Whitehead represents the younger generation who begin assuming the mantle of leadership of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana and the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission - continuing the vision of kupuna such as Uncle Harry Mitchell, and makua such as George Helm - who laid the groundwork for the restoration of the island's cultural and natural resources. Her youthful and informed perspective, her demonstrated abilities, and her dedication to the restoration of Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe as a puʻuhonua (cultural refuge) combine to ensure that the Native Hawaiian lifestyle and culture will flourish on Kahoʻolawe and be embraced by all the people of Hawaiʻi - Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike.

Commissioner Whitehead lives in Pāpā, South Kona, on the island of Hawaiʻi.


Michael Naho'opi'i

Executive Director

Mike has been involved with Kahoʻolawe from virtually every perspective in its recent history. A long-time Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana (PKO) member and former US Navy Officer-in-Charge of Kahoʻolawe during the conveyance of the island to the State of Hawaiʻi, he was a senior manager during the early Model Cleanup and the later Navy Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance project. Born in Honolulu, Nahoʻopiʻi graduated from the Kamehameha Schools in 1982. He received his BS in Electrical Engineering from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and was commissioned an ensign in 1986, serving as a nuclear-trained submarine officer until his assignment to Kahoʻolawe. In 1992, he received an MBA in accounting from Chaminade University. Nahoʻopiʻi is certified as a Quality Manager and Quality Engineer by the American Society for Quality, and holds the designation of Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute. He and his family reside in Kapahulu, Oʻahu.


Kelly McHugh

Public Information Specialist

Kelly joined the KIRC as Public Information Specialist in August 2013. She holds a Bachelorʻs Degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she studied Studio Art and English Literature, and earned a Professional Certification in Nonprofit Management from New York University. With fifteen years of experience in program development, communications and outreach, Kelly has held posts with Sesame Workshop, MetLife, the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the Art School at Kapalua, and – most recently – five years with Hui Noʻeau Visual Arts Center in Makawao. Outside of the KIRC, Kelly works with various community organizations on projects driving community building and social change, and is a member of Nā Kai ʻEwalu Canoe Club.

Anela Evans

Volunteer Coordinator

ʻĀnela joined the KIRC as the Volunteer Coordinator in September 2013. Raised on the island of Lānaʻi, she holds a Bachelorʻs Degree and Masterʻs Degree in Hawaiian Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is a member of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana as a volunteer on Kahoʻolawe and has aided in coordinating and facilitating huakaʻi to Kahoʻolawe for nearly nine years. ʻĀnela is also involved in various community organizations that promote Hawaiian culture and aloha ʻāina. She enjoys being outdoors, photography, graphic design, and most of all, dancing hula.

Dean Tokishi

Ocean Resources Specialist III

Growing up on Maui, Dean graduated from Maui High School and later receiving a Bachelorʻs Degree in Marine Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. For three years he was involved in the restoration of Kahoʻolawe during the ordnance removal project. In January of 2003 he obtained a position with the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) in monitoring, managing and protecting all of the Reserves marine resources. Currently Dean serves as the KIRCʻs Ocean Resources Program Manager where he is not only given the opportunity to educate others on the importance of marine resource

Jennifer Vander Veur

Ocean Resources Specialist II

Jennifer became a member of the KIRC Ocean Program in 2008, leaving New Zealand to follow her dream of helping restore the ocean around Kahoʻolawe. She attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo receiving Bachelorʻs degrees in Marine Science as well as Conservation Biology. Upon graduation she was hired by the state to set up the Aquatic Invasive Species Program on the Island of Hawaiʻi. She then went on to receive a Masterʻs of Science in Marine Biology from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Jennifer has worked on the West Hawaiʻi Aquarium Project, developed the Wai ʻOpea Night Ranger Program and conducted human use and biological surveys in Wai ʻOpea MLCD, volunteered for the Smithsonian sea turtle research in Palmyra, and was a field manager for Public Interest Research Groups. Jennifer is fascinated by all marine life and her interests include everything from fish, invertebrates, sea turtles, to sharks and dolphins.

Paul Higashino

Natural Resources Specialist V

Paul has a BS in Tropical Agriculture from The University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. Paul has been with the KIRC since 1996 and is the Restoration Manager for the Restoration Program. He is responsible for the biological management for Kahoʻolawe and planning restoration activities on island. This includes planting, erosion control, planting strategies, faunal restoration, and logistics of KIRC personnel and volunteers. Previous work history included working for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, Maui Preserves as Field Naturalist and Assistant Preserves Manager, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Research Division as a Research Associate, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Biological Technician, U.S. Forest Service, Dept. of Agriculture as a Field Technician, The University of Hawaiʻi, Department of Botany as a Lab Technician, and a Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi as Field Biologist and Field Assistant.

Lyman Abbott

Natural Resources Specialist III

Lyman has a BA in Geology from the University of Hawaii and a MS in Forestry from Humboldt State University where he worked at Redwood National Park. He also surveyed the Natural Area Reserve System in Hawaii, mapped rare Hawaiian plants in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Puʻu Honua o Honaunau, Kaloko-Honokohau and Puʻu Kohola on the Kona Coast. He has been studying Native Hawaiian Ecosystems since 1987 and has been with the KIRC for 11 years. He has been the KIRC Project Manager for the Department of Health, Clean Water Branch grants since 2003.

Jamie Bruch

Natural Resources Specialist III

Jamie received a Dual BA/BS degree from The Evergreen State College in 1995 focusing in Environmental Science. After graduation he spent 6 years on the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project as Research Associate. He was an integral part of the methodology development and safe translocations of Hawaiian Honeycreepers using both helicopters and carrying cases. He worked for the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State as a Marbled Murrelet surveyor, and was employed with the Maui Invasive Species Committee as Field Supervisor before coming to the KIRC in 2003. His resume includes trapping experience with cats, rats and mongoose and general predator control as well as an extensive ornithology background. At the KIRC he helped design the erosion control, planting and irrigation system while implementing two federal grants from the Department of Health as Project Assistant. Recently Jamie has organized the Kahoʻolawe Island Faunal Restoration Working Group and was the Project Manager of a feral cat ecology grant with the USFWS.

Lopaka White

Natural Resources Specialist II

Bio coming soon!

Bart Maybee

UXO Safety Specialist

Bio coming soon!

Charlie Lindsey

Maintenance and Vessel Specialist

Born in Lahaina and an alumni of Lahainaluna High School, Charlie's history with Kaho'olawe includes service with the US Army defensive live fire training exercises, utilizing both Navy and Air force, supporting fires during his service as a Captain in the Army. During his tenure as President of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, he, along with Rene Silva and members, assisted the Navy with the restoration of Kaho'olawe, planting more than four thousand native Hawaiian plants and restoring the cistern. All of this was done prior to the creation of the KIRC. He currently has a US Coast Guard 100-ton Captain's License for both power and sail boats and operates the KIRC vessel, the O'HUA. He has held various non-profit presidential positions, such as "Hui O Waa Kaulua" and "Uhane o Waa Kaulua," the building of the new Waa Kaulua Mookiha and Naleileihua in Lahaina and Olowalu, and has served on the board of directors for Lae Ula O Kai canoe club. He and his wife reside in Kula, Maui.

Grant Thompson

KIR Specialist III

Bio coming soon!

Kuiokalani Gapero

Cultural Resources Project Coordinator

Kui was a teacher of the Hawaiian language at the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus and has recently joined the staff of the KIRC to provide expertise and guidance in cultural awareness and sensitivity. Kui is of Native Hawaiian descent and has deep roots on Maui and family ties to the island of Kahoʻolawe. He has five years of education experience and has demonstrated an ability to successfully work with Native Hawaiian student and adult, indigent student populations. Kui has a B.A. degree in Hawaiian Language from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa.

Ka'onohi Lee

Administrative Officer

Bio coming soon!

Carmela Noneza

GIS/LAN Specialist

Bio coming soon!

David DeMark

Administrative Specialist III

Bio coming soon!

Mei Mailou-Santos

Administrative Specialist II

Bio coming soon!

Terri Gavagan

Commission Coordinator

Terri is the KIRCʻs full-time staff member overseeing the KIRC archives. She has a BA and a MA in Anthropology. Her responsibilities include the continuation of KIRC Archives organization, determination of appropriate materials needed to organize and document archive contents including database software, scanners and other materials.

Back to top