Lingle picks DLNR head
The governor praises Laura H. Thielen for her passion regarding environmental issues
Gov. Linda Lingle selected a longtime ally and daughter of a Republican state representative as the new director of the state Land and Natural Resources Department.
Laura H. Thielen, 46, is a former state school board member and was director of the Office of State Planning until her nomination to DLNR. As head of the department, Thielen will also serve as chairwoman of the seven-member Board of Land and Natural Resources, which handles land-use issues and permits.
LAURA H. THIELEN
New job: Director of state Department of Land and Natural Resources
Previous jobs: Executive director, State Office of Planning; sole proprietor of LHT Services, a business consulting firm; Legal Aid Society, managing attorney; elected member, Board of Education, 2002, and Kailua Neighborhood Board, 1994-1996
Education: Punahou School, University of Colorado at Boulder, Case Western Reserve School of Law and Georgetown University master's degree in public policy
The department has been criticized by the legislative auditor, and the Senate rejected the nomination of Peter Young as director earlier this year, saying he failed to handle the issues of boating, conservation enforcement, historic preservation and the Bureau of Conveyances.
After his rejection, Young stayed with the department as a deputy and helped organize a 30-person advisory committee that recommended that Lingle select either Thielen or attorney Dawn Chang.
Thielen is the daughter of longtime Windward Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. Laura Thielen managed her mother's campaign.
Thielen's nomination was revealed yesterday by Lingle before the annual Hawaii Conservation Conference. Members of the audience, including Marjorie Ziegler, executive director of the Conservation Council for Hawaii, praised the nomination.
"It was a surprise, but I think she will be good," Ziegler said.
Lingle called Thielen "the right person for the job," adding, "She has worked on environmental issues. I know firsthand her passion for these issues and her ability to work well with all kinds of people."
Thielen served a term on the state Board of Education and became a leading champion of Lingle's proposal to revamp the school system by breaking up the single school board into small boards.
During a news conference yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center, Thielen conceded that the department, which governs uses of Hawaii's parks, beaches, public lands, oceans and waters, has had problems.
"The chronic issues that have been raised for DLNR are the Bureau of Conveyances, historic preservation and boating. They are going to take some serious attention and discussion," Thielen said.
"It is a very awesome amount of responsibility. I think that the patience (of the public) is at an end. People understand why the problems are there, but they would like them resolved," she said.
She declined to offer any specific examples of changes she wanted to make, but Thielen said she would be talking with the officials at the Bureau of Conveyances, which is already the subject of a legislative investigation, and members of the Legislature.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa reserved judgment on Thielen's appointment, saying, "I don't really have an opinion on Laura Thielen one way or the other."
Hanabusa said Thielen will have to show she recognizes the problems with the department and "at least have a plan to address them and fix them."
Although many of the problems with the state department had been around since the previous, Democratic administration, senators said Lingle and her previous director had not done enough to correct the problems.
Lingle, however, noted during her speech to the Conservation Conference that Democrats in the Legislature had not filled all the jobs she asked for in the department.
"We got 25 out of the 40 new park rangers we asked for," Lingle said. "Given my record with this Legislature, that's not bad."