Staff Directory


Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D.

President/CEO, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D.,  is a recognized scholar, educator, public policy spokesperson, and community leader in Hawaii.  Currently, he is President/CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a public policy think tank dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited, accountable government.  An expert in East-West Philosophy and ethics, Dr. Akina has taught at universities in China and the United States and continues as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University.  Dr. Akina was a candidate for Trustee at Large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, garnering more than 93,000 votes in the 2014 General Election run-off.

Joe Kent

Vice President of Research

Is the Vice President of Research at the Grassroot Institute. He grew up on the Big Island, and received his education degree at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Minnesota State University. He taught for eight years at King Kamehameha III School in Lahaina, Maui, and at Sleepy Eye Public School in Minnesota. Joe was also a summer fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Malia Blom Hill

Director of Policy

Malia Hill comes to the Grassroot Institute 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 Washington DC-based advocacy groups. She is currently the Policy Director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, and lives in the Washington, DC area, where she works on both national and state issues affecting the future of Hawaii.

Kelsey Meehan

Director of Communications and Membership Services

Kelsey Meehan handles member and media relations, and manages Grassroot’s social media accounts. Prior to joining Grassroot, Kelsey was involved in donor communications and research at several non- profits in the Philadelphia, PA region. She graduated from Villanova University with a Political Science degree in 2015, and moved to Hawaii shortly after.

Zachary Cox


Graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelors in Economics. He is currently working towards a Masters in Marketing, and is on the development team at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He has his pilot’s license and hopes to follow in his parents’ footsteps of becoming an airline pilot one day.

Aaron Lief


Aaron served in the Air Force for 4 years before starting nursing school at Hawaii Pacific University.