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

Joshua K. Kaakua

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2023

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.

Suzanne Case.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Chairperson
Term expires December 31, 2022

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.


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.



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.



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.



Saumalu Maatafa

County of Maui
Term expires June 30, 2023

Saumalu Mataafa works in the County of Maui’s Department of Management and is the County's representative on the KIRC.

Before joining the KIRC, Saumalu was an analyst for the Maui County Council, specializing in housing-related topics. He also worked with the State Legislature where he helped draft policies to increase food sustainability, implement high-technology strategies, and manage infrastructure systems.

Saumalu was born in Honolulu and raised in Lahaina. After graduating from Lahainaluna High School he went on to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and his Master’s degree in Human Factors and Systems. Prior to moving back to Hawaii, he worked on systems with the Federal Aviation Administration and completed space bioscience projects at NASA, in Moffett Field, California.

He is also an alumni of the McNair Fellowship Program and the Ka Ipu Kukui Fellowship Program.


Michelle Mikiʻala Pescaia

Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana
Term expires June 30, 2021

Ms. Pescaia was raised on Molokaʻi and graduated from Kamehameha Schools Kāpalama. She later graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Language. Prior to her current position as Interpretive Park Ranger at the Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Mikiʻala was a director for a Molokaʻi summer school program and Molokaʻi site coordinator for Nā Pua Noeau, University of Hawaiʻi Hilo. She has also served as a cultural education specialist at the Bishop Museum, an instructor at the Molokaʻi extension of UH Maui College, and taught in the Punana Leo o Molokaʻi Hawaiian Immersion Preschool.


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


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


Courney Kerr

Ocean Resource Specialist II

Joining KIRC in 2018, Courtney Kerr received her B.S in Marine Biology from the University of South Florida in 2015 and her M.S in Natural Resources and Environmental Management from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2018. Courtney’s past projects include volunteer based invasive algae removal in Paikō Lagoon State Wildlife Sanctuary, water quality analysis in Mānoa and Heʻeia watershed, and sedimentation rates into Maunalua Bay, Hawaiʻi.


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

Maintenance and Vessel Operator

Born on the island of Oʻahu and raised on Maui, Lopaka is a Class of 2000 graduate of King Kekaulike High School.

Growing up on Maui being surrounded and fascinated by the ocean, along with the positive influences of many mentors over the years has helped Lopaka to develop the skills to be a driven leader with a passion for protecting Hawaii’s natural resources- both cultural and physical. The Canoe is what first brought Lopaka to Kahoʻolawe with the Kamaliʻi program of Hawaiian Canoe Club as a teenager. Upon graduating high school and after a short stint in the hotel industry, Lopaka decided to apply for a job on Kahoʻolawe during the UXO cleanup project. During his early years on Kahoʻolawe, working for Parsons Infrastructure & Technology, he spent time in the field performing sub-surface detection of UXO (unexploded ordnance) using metal detectors, assisting EOD’s and their excavation teams with the detection, excavation and removal of UXO; as well as assuring quality control of geophysical detection work performed in the field as a Geophysicist’s Assistant. Currently Lopaka is the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission’s Maintenance & Vessel Operator. As an Access Guide and previous restoration project manager, he have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to manage and lead thousands of volunteers in the faunal restoration and re-vegetative efforts of a 45-square mile project site over the course of his tenure with the KIRC.


Grant Thompson

KIR Specialist III

Grant Thompson joined the KIRC in 2008. Born and raised on South Africa’s east coast, Grant brings to the job a broad spectrum of skills drawn from his time in the South African Army as a “Sapper”, which include expertise in operating small boats, generators, wastewater management, demolition operations, and landmine detection. His boating skills were refined while working on multiple vessel platforms and crews, including the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute), a boat-based response crew which assisted mariners in distress off the coast of Southern Africa. Mr. Thompson also worked for three years with the Makani Olu, an educational three-masted 96-foot schooner, based on Oahu that works with Hawaiian youth.

During his time with the KIRC, Grant has completed his Master Mariner’s Credential as Captain and helped to refine the KIRC’s unique boating operations of transporting personnel and cargo, including vehicles and bulk fuel, to Kahoʻolawe; a task with many complexities including the challenge of unloading cargo during beach landings, as the island has no dock. While living in Maui Mr. Thompson has also volunteered on several environmental projects including rebuilding fishponds and loʻi, restoring sand dunes and Hawaiian Stilt habitats, and farming taro and other native crops.



Cassie Smith

Volunteer Coordinator

Cassie "Hōkūikekai” Smith joined the KIRC as Volunteer Coordinator in January 2016. Raised on the island of Oʻahu before moving to Kīhei, Maui at 13, Cassie’s first volunteer trip to Kahoʻolawe (at age 14) set in motion her vocation to learn about mālama ʻāina. She has a degree in Hawaiian Language from UH Mānoa and spent 2 years with KUPU’s HYCC internship program. Outside of the KIRC she assists with aloha ʻāina causes and perpetuates local culture through hula and other community activities.



Maggie Pulver

Public Information Specialist

Maggie has lived, learned and taught in Hawaiʻi for the last 14 years.

After receiving a B.S from the University of Vermont and a M.S. at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, she went on to teach at Hoʻāla School on Oʻahu. There she developed integrated curriculum rooted in Hawaiian culture and place, interwoven with community, and adaptable to the individual passions of students.

Maggie is also a volunteer with Polynesian Voyaging Society, and served as crew member, education program specialist and outreach coordinator curing the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

She first became involved with Kaho&699olawe in 2012 as a KIRC volunteer, and then continued to work with the Protect Kaho‘olawe &699Ohana. She is excited to have landed her "dream job" working in service of Kahoʻolawe.



Matthew Hatakeyama

Administrative Officer

Matt comes to the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission via a 20-year career in the Travel and Hospitality Industry. Born and raised in Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island, Matt’s first adventure was graduating from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama in 1994. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, followed by an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2003. In 2014 Matt, wife Reene and 3 keiki (children) moved home to Hawaii. Matt loves spending time with ohana (family) at the beach, watching college football and tracing his Hawaiian ancestry.


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.


Janeece Beauchamp

Administrative Specialist III

Born and raised on Maui and of Native Hawaiian descent, Janeece attended Baldwin High School before studying business management and communications at the former Maui Community College. Prior to joining us at the KIRC, she spent ten years with Hardware Lumber Maui as assistant office manager and a cabinet designer, five years with Four Seasons Resort Maui as beach concierge and pool attendant and at Navatek as Hawaiian Culture Director. Janeece has volunteered as team mom for club wrestling (Maui Tiger Style) for Baldwin HS, where her children attend, and with Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Janeece is "extremely excited to be a part of this amazing program that helps the community to preserve the Hawaiian culture."



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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