Thoughts on the Kamehameha Schools trustee selection process

Ikaika M Hussey

A friend has been asking me to weigh in on the selection process for a new Kamehameha Schools trustee, to replace Diane Plotts. The Independent hasn’t had the editorial resources to really delve into this topic, so I’m composing some thoughts here.

For those who remember the old Bishop Estate Kamehameha Schools, this new era is striking for its relative banality. Conversations in the 80’s often included descriptions of exorbitant trustee compensation and political connections at the estate. While the money and politics will never go away—not with a trust that is both geographically and financially perched at the top of Honolulu—the whole affair seems much more staid, traditional, and corporate. In the case of Kamehameha, that’s a good thing.

The process could be improved. As much as the selection process has improved, it could benefit from stronger corporate communications. The “Officers and Trustees” page on the Kamehameha website would be the logical home for information about the trustee selection process. It should include biographies of the three candidates, information about the process, and (easier) methods for the public to weigh in.

What is the estate looking for? I sit on two non-profit boards. In both cases, the selection of new board members is driven by a consideration of the current board composition, future strategic goals of the institution, and a sense of what additional talent would be necessary on the board to achieve those goals. I’m certain that the selection committee had that conversation. But I wasn’t in the room; and any comments I could offer about the candidates are really only useful in the context of what the board, and Kamehameha, needs.

I’ll try to answer my own question.

Kamehameha is the largest landowner in Hawaii, utilizing its massive capitalization to fund a network of educational programs (the three campuses, the extension programs, Kamehameha Publishing, etc.) But at the heart of it, it is a real estate company. And the skills necessary to oversee, and bear responsibility for, Hawaii’s largest estate are pretty specific. Given that Diane Plotts, the outgoing trustee, is taking her experience in real estate development with her, it might make sense for her replacement to also come from real estate. With that in mind, Lance Wilhelm, Senior Vice President at Kiewit Building Group, would be a logical choice.