Senate approves governor’s picks for 3 Cabinet positions
Laura Thielen wants to modernize and expand the natural resources agency
The state Senate gave quick approval to Gov. Linda Lingle's three Cabinet posts in the just-concluded special session.
Yesterday the Senate unanimously approved Laura Thielen as Department of Land and Natural Resources director, Darwin Ching as labor director and Clayton Frank as public safety director.
During the earlier session, the Senate rejected Lingle's nominations of Peter Young for DLNR director and Iwalani White for director of the Department of Public Safety.
Several senators said they had concerns about Frank's appointment as public safety director because he had been a defendant in a 2001 lawsuit concerning gender discrimination.
Frank told the Senate Public Safety Committee that he had learned from the experience and was instituting new rules in the department, including sexual and gender harassment training classes.
"He showed remorse and understands the gravity of the situation," Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Ewa Beach), Public Safety Committee chairman, said in a Senate floor speech.
After her confirmation, Thielen, a former state planner and daughter of longtime Republican state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, said she is working to develop a "strong management team" for the DLNR.
Noting that in the past four years the Legislature and Lingle have increased the DLNR budget 60 percent, Thielen said she wants to expand and modernize some functions, especially for the Historic Preservation Division.
"I would like to see the mission for the division be more robust, with management teams working in a more integrated fashion," Thielen said.
In a floor speech, Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) noted that in the four months since Thielen was named interim director, "she has already reversed the culture of what is expected for this department."
Senators have criticized the department for not having enough qualified archaeologists on staff, and Thielen said she is working to expand recruiting and also free the state archaeologists from tiresome paperwork.
"I think there are things we can do to make the job of the archaeologists easier, to allow them to focus on the substantive professional duties and not the clerical work," Thielen said.