Home > The KIRC Team

Contents of this page:
Overview
KIRC Team
Commissioners
Executive
Staff

THE KIRC TEAM

OVERVIEW

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.

COMMISSIONERS

EXECUTIVE

STAFF


COMMISSIONERS

Michele McLean

County of Maui
Term expires June 30, 2019

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.


Suzanne Case.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Chairperson
Term expires December 31, 2018

Suzanne Case was born in Hilo and grew up in Hilo and Honolulu. She attended Waiakea-Kai Elementary School, Keaukaha Elementary School and Punahou School (1974). She attended Williams College and Stanford University, where she graduated with honors (B.A., History, 1979), and received her law degree from Hastings College of the Law, University of California, San Francisco.

Suzanne is a 28-year veteran of The Nature Conservancy, having served as the Hawaiʻi Program's Executive Director from 2001-2015. During her years at The Nature Conservancy, she oversaw the acquisition of the 116,000-acre Kahuku Ranch addition to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, eight Hawaiʻi Nature Conservancy preserves, Palmyra Atoll, new National Wildlife Refuges at Hakalau on the slopes of Mauna Kea and at Oʻahu Forest, and assisted with the formation of watershed partnerships for forested management throughout Hawaiʻi, the growth of networks of local communities working to restore their near-shore marine resources, and implementation of large-scale projects to remove invasive algae from Hawaii’s reefs and coastal areas. Governor Ige appointed Suzanne Case as Chair of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources in April, 2015.



Christopher M. Kaliko Baker, Ph. D

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2021

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 (Kauahea)
Term expires June 30, 2020

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.


Joshua K. Kaakua

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2019

The KIRC welcomes new Commissioner Joshua K. Kaakua, Ed.D. as representative of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana; a seat previously held by Noa Emmett Aluli. .

Joshua grew up in Waimanalo, Oahʻu and is a graduate of Punahou School, the University of Notre Dame (BS Civil Engineering), the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Shidler College of Business (MBA), and the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education (Ed.D.). He has worked at the University of Hawaiʻi since 2002 teaching in the College of Engineering, directing the Native Hawaiian Science & Engineering Mentorship Program and administering over $10 million in extramural projects to improve STEM education and outcomes for underrepresented groups (including Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and women). Joshua has served as a Kua with the PKO for over 14 years with kuleana to guide safe and meaningful access to Kahoʻolawe and to perpetuate the principles of Aloha ʻĀina throughout Hawaiʻi. He is currently a Diversity Specialist for the University of Hawaiʻi Office of STEM Education charged with providing UH system-wide leadership and support for STEM activities at UH and in Hawaiʻi. He and his family reside on Oahʻu.


Carmen Hulu Lindsey.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Term expires June 30, 2019

Carmen Hulu Lindsey has represented Maui as an OHA trustee since January 2012. She also has been a long-time member of the ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu and an active member of the Central Maui Hawaiian Civic Club. In addition, she is a former properties administrator for Maui Land & Pineapple Co. as well as the former administrator for the County of Maui’s Land Use and Codes Division. She is also a recording artist.


Jonathan Ching

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2019

Jonathan Ching is a member of KIRC Commission as a respresentative of PKO.

Dr. Ching has been a member of the PKO for 21 years and has served in many leadership positions within the organization. He has been trained and certified as a KIRC Assess Guide and has participated and lead many volunteer trips to the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve safely. His most currently involvement with Kahoʻolawe has been as a cultural practitioner responsible for perpetuating the annual makahiki ceremony on Kahoʻolawe and as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs representatives on the joint KIRC/PKO/OHA working group that created the current long-term, community planning document for Kahoʻolawe entitled: I OLA KANALOA!

Dr. Ching is a graduate of the University of Hawaiʻi with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Graphic Design and a Doctorate of Architecture. Currently, Dr. Ching is the Land and Property Manager in the Land Assets Division of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In this position, Dr. Ching oversees the management of the majority of the lands held by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, almost 30,000 acres, and a ten-person staff. He engages in inter-governmental and community relations; natural resource management; strategic planning; risk management and traditional Hawaiian land management approaches.

Dr. Ching's training as an architect and experience working with native Hawaiian land management issues is a critical need for this commission as the KIRC embarks on a series of Capital Improvement Projects including the installation of alternative energy systems on Kahoʻolawe, the development and construction of the KIRC Operational and Educational Center at Kihei, and the continuing restoration of Kahoʻolawe’s natural and cultural resources.


EXECUTIVE

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.


STAFF

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.



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!


Grant Thompson

KIR Specialist III

Bio coming soon!



Ka'onohi Lee

Administrative Officer

Bio coming soon!



Kaipo Kahoaliʻi

Administrative Specialist III

Kaipo Kahoaliʻi joined the KIRC in the finance department as an administrative assistant in January 2017. Kaipo was born on Oʻahu, but moved to the mainland when he was three. After many years of being told it was time to come home, he finally did… just not to Oʻahu. He has Bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Business Administration and ten-plus years of experience as a medical underwriter in insurance. A customer focused worker with a penchant for thinking outside of the box and a passion for people, Kaipo is looking forward to continuing to learn about Kahoʻolawe from a cultural perspective and the challenges we face in restoring the Kino of Kanaloa. He is also a foodie who was sad to discover that Maui does not have any dim sum places so any ono restaurant recommendations are gladly accepted.


Carmela Noneza

GIS/LAN Specialist

With an extensive background in CAD, Land Surveying and Network Administration, Carmela has 21 years of military Ground Radio Communications experience and is a retired veteran with the Air National Guard. Prior to joining the KIRC team in 2005, Carmela was a Land Survey Supervisor during the 10-year UXO (unexploded ordnance)cleanup project on Kahoʻolawe.



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.



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