1. Who is Keli’i Akina?
Aloha, I'm Keli'i Akina, Trustee-at-Large in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. I was elected to OHA in 2016 with 164,000 votes. Since then, I have fulfilled my campaign promise to bring needed reforms to the agency and help it to better serve Hawaiians and all people of the state. I'm also the President/CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, the independent think tank which is helping Hawaii to develop a better economy and government. I'm a husband and father of four children, each of whom, like me, is a proud graduate of the Kamehameha Schools. At Kamehameha, I was the chanter for the school court and went on to become chanter for the halau of a renowned kumu hula. I earned a Bachelor's degree at Northwestern University and completed my Master's and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Hawaii. My first career was in Christian ministry, where I started on the Waianae and Nanakuli coast reaching out to young people. After 31 years, I retired as state-wide president of Youth for Christ and founder of the Center for Tomorrow's Leaders. I then became a college professor, teaching philosophy and ethics. Today, I am active in helping our state's leaders develop improved policies for the government, economy, and society.
2. What is OHA and why should I vote for OHA?
OHA is a state government agency responsible for improving the conditions of native Hawaiians. OHA also impacts the lives of all residents in Hawaii as it influences decisions about land, ocean, and society. And when OHA fails to fully provide for the welfare needs of Hawaiians, that burden falls on state taxpayers. It is the right and responsibility of all citizens to vote for OHA trustees who oversee the work of the agency. When OHA functions properly, it benefits Hawaiians and all people in the state.
3. What good work did you do during your first term?
When I was first elected to OHA, the agency was at an all-time low in its reputation for integrity. Despite opposition, I successfully championed an audit for fraud, waste, and abuse, which is now a blueprint for many needed reforms. I also initiated my plan to restore the effectiveness and reputation of OHA.
4. What is your mission if you win the 2nd term?
I'm committed to fulfilling my three-part plan, which focuses on the need for trustees to be watchdogs and develop the trust fund assets of OHA: 1) Protect the trust through audits and strong fiscal policy; 2) Grow the trust by developing valuable income properties such as Kaka'ako Makai, and 3) Use the trust for the real needs of Hawaiians - housing, jobs, education, and healthcare.
5. What is your belief as a leader?
In my first term in office, I established a proven record of integrity and the ability to courageously fight agaInst corruption. For example, I refused to accept $44,400 in Trustee "allowance" money, a questionable practice later found by the State Auditor to be abused by many trustees. Additionally, my team and I have been effective in bringing about needed reforms.
6. What is your vision for Hawaii?
I am passionately committed to serving the needs of my fellow Hawaiians, but in a way that benefits all people of Hawaii. That's because I envision a Hawaii where all residents thrive and live by the Aloha Spirit. To raise the water level of one boat, we must raise the water level of all boats. OHA can do so much good for Hawaiians and all people when we work together. That's why I promote the value of E Hana Kākou/ Let's Work Together! It's time to stop dividing Hawaii's people and start uniting.