Our Team

Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D.

Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D., is a recognized scholar, public policy spokesperson and community leader in Hawai’i. A graduate of Kamehameha Schools, he holds advanced degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hawaii, is an expert in East-West philosophy and ethics, and has taught at universities in China and the United States, including Hawaii Pacific University. In 2016 and again in 2020, he was elected to statewide public office as trustee-at-large for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. 

Joe Kent
Executive vice president

Joe Kent grew up on the Big Island and attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Minnesota State University, where he obtained his degree in education. Kent was a public school teacher for eight years, at King Kamehameha III School in Lahaina, Maui, and Sleepy Eye Public School in Minnesota. He also is a former student fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Malia Blom Hill
Policy director

Malia Hill comes to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii with a background in law, politics and communications. She completed her undergraduate studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University and obtained her J.D. from the Catholic University of America. After working in Hawaii politics at the state level, including a brief period with the Office of Rep. Mark Moses, she went on to work for several advocacy groups based in Washington, D.C., where she currently resides. As policy director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, she works on both national and state issues affecting the future of Hawaii.

Sean Mitsui
Finance director

Sean Mitsui is a graduate from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with a major in finance and minor in political science. He was born and raised in Hawaii, but also has lived in Japan and California. Mitsui worked at a local insurance company before joining the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. During his spare time, he is an avid runner who participates every year in the Honolulu Marathon. He also enjoys reading books about history and economics.

Mark Coleman
Managing editor, communications director

Mark Coleman is a veteran journalist who spent almost three decades with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a decade with Honolulu-based Pacific Business News, and two years with the Pacific Daily News on Guam. He has communication degrees from Florida State University and the University of Hawai’i, was a Herbert J. Davenport Fellow in Business and Economic Reporting at the University of Missouri, reported from Japan as part of an International Press Institute journalist exchange program, and is a former Hawaii chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He also has been published widely as a freelance writer.

Ted Kefalas
Director of strategic campaigns

Ted Kefalas is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he double majored in political science and media studies while playing football for the Virginia Cavaliers. Prior to joining the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, he worked as a government affairs and crisis communications professional with Capital Results in Richmond, Va., representing clients in diverse industries nationwide. His experience and established relationships help him build coalitions and view policy issues with a distinct point of view.

David Swann
Cartoonist, illustrator

David Swann is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in history. He was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He was an editorial cartoonist for the Huntsville Times in northern Alabama for nine years before settling in Hawaii in 1994. He worked as a graphic artist for the Honolulu Advertiser until 1997, then switched to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for 19 years, as both papers merged to become the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He has won numerous local and national awards for graphics, cartoons and illustrations.

David Patterson
Broadcast media producer

David Patterson is a three-time Emmy Award-winning news producer and marketing professional who prior to joining the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was communications manager for the Institute of Human Services, and before that assignment manager at KHON TV News. Since moving to Hawaii in 1991, he also has worked for Hawaii News Now, KITV and several advertising and public relations firms. He is a past president of the Hawaii Kai Rotary Club and the Hahaione Elementary PTSA, as well as a certified fitness trainer. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, but did live in Hawaii for a year in 1970, during which time he attended Aina Haina Elementary School as a kindergartener. He is a graduate of Principia College in Illinois, where he also taught communications courses and served as coach of the school’s men’s college basketball team. 

Jonathan Helton
Policy researcher

Jonathan Helton is a summa cum laude graduate of Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee where he earned a bachelor’s degree in law and politics. He has worked for two law firms, multiple forensics organizations and in social media marketing. While still at the university, he interned with the Tennessee General Assembly in the office of Bo Watson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Ways and Means. In addition to the Grassroot Institute, his work has been published by The Maui News, the Honolulu-Star Advertiser, TravelPulse, RealClear Politics, the Mises Institute and other publications.

Jensen Ahokovi
Research associate

Jensen Ahokovi is a graduate of ‘Iolani School and currently studying economics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Born and raised in Kaneohe, his research interests are in urban and labor economics and applied econometrics. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Honolulu-Star Advertiser, Pacific Business News, Honolulu Civil Beat and other publications. Jensen or his research has also appeared on Hawaii Public Radio, KITV4 News, KHON2 News, Hawaii News Now and ThinkTech Hawaii.

Melissa Rabideau
Assistant to the executive 
vice president

Melissa Rabideau was born in San Diego, Calif., and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., where she graduated from Cactus High School. As a young adult, she moved to Seattle, Wash., where she graduated from Olympic College. She has lived in Hawaii since 2018. She is a longtime business management and administrative professional. 


Jennifer Hunt
Community relations manager

Jennifer Hunt is an entrepreneur, business owner and real estate investor who has been living in Hawaii on and off since 2010. She is Canadian born and raised, having lived in cities such as Halifax in Nova Scotia and Victoria and Kelowna in British Columbia. Passionate about the economy, transparency and community, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of British Columbia and a master’s degree in communication from Royal Roads University. 

Charley Myers

Charley Myers began his career as a photographer after graduating from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. A resident of Hawaii since 1957 and a  graduate of Roosevelt High School as well, he has worked as a photographer for the Hawaii Institute for Geophysics, Bishop Museum and the Queen’s Medical Center. He also has broad freelance experience. Samples of his work are posted at charleymyers.net and charleymyers.com. When not behind a camera, he might be found playing guitar in bands around town.

Sarah Zoellick
Copy editor, writer

Sarah Zoellick is a former reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, where she covered three consecutive sessions of the Hawaii Legislature. She has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, where she also minored in business and sociology. Following three years as an award-winning criminal justice reporter in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she signed on with the largest healthcare system in southwest Ohio as a writer and coordinator of its internal communications. She now lives in northern Colorado, soaking in high-altitude sunsets and spending most of her days with her young son.

Peter Bochner
Copy editor, writer

Peter Bochner is a veteran computer industry journalist and editor. A graduate of North Arlington High School in New Jersey, he has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in science journalism, both from Boston University. He is a regular contributor to differentbrains.com, a website devoted to neurodiversity. He also has edited books on autism and historical fiction, and has written extensively about issues pertaining to health.


Kevin Lewis
Digital and print designer

Kevin Lewis began his career in graphic arts at a small Honolulu print shop. Now a design professional living in Vermont, he has bachelor of arts degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He also has art-directed for National Life of Vermont, web-designed for national e-tailer Gardener’s Supply, and freelanced for a variety of clients. For 23 years he has published The Hinesburg Record, an independent, nonprofit, small-town newspaper. His portfolio and full background can be found at klworks.net. When he’s not designing or publishing, he enjoys sketching, skiing, gardening and, whenever possible, surfing.

Aahir Ghosh
Film and video editor 

Aahir Ghosh creates and manages videos for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s YouTube channel. Originally from Washington, he now resides in Tempe, Arizona, where he is majoring in film production at Arizona State University and directs and edits short videos.

Jamilyn Chapman
Development associate 

Jamilyn Chapman is a 2021 graduate of Hawai’i Pacific University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and double minored in international business and Spanish. A graduate of Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Washington, she moved to Hawaii in 2018 when her father was transferred here by the U.S. Navy. Growing up as a “military brat,” she has lived throughout the U.S. mainland and Europe. In her free time she enjoys free-diving and linguistic studies.

Brenner Danielson
Marketing associate 

Brenner Danielson is a native of Boise, Idaho who moved to Hawaii in 2019 to attend Hawaii Pacific University, where he is a senior studying finance and economics with minors in marketing and international studies. In his free time, he enjoys SCUBA diving and hiking around Oahu.