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Apr 24, 2017

People Who Make Hawaii Work: Dawn Harflinger

Pacific Business News

Dawn Harflinger was recently promoted to vice president and chief financial officer of the Liliʻuokalani Trust, which oversees a portfolio of 6,400 acres in Hawaii, the majority on the Big Island, whose revenues benefit orphan and destitute children.

Harflinger, 42, joined the trust in 2005 as an executive fiscal officer and then worked with the endowment group on such things as property management, leasing, land appraisals and financial matters before being promoted to director of investments and vice president and chief investment officer. Harflinger, who grew up on a farm in West Oahu with three siblings and graduated from Waipahu High School, received degrees in business and literature from Pacific University in Oregon. After launching her career there, she returned home to Hawaiʻi to raise her family. She is currently a member of the CFA Society Hawaiʻi, is a director of the Waikiki Improvement Association and is a member of the Urban Land Institute.

Tell me a little about your job: I work with people who share a passion for helping Hawaiian children and their families thrive. As chief financial officer at the trust, I oversee its finance activities, including all financial, tax, and compliance matters, as well as management of its investment portfolio; in addition, I have oversight of the trust’s information technology, communications, human resources, and organizational development divisions.

Why I took this job: I lived in Portland for many years after college, but ultimately realized that I wanted to raise my children in Hawaii. I decided to trade our large Oregon house for two things: the opportunity to work for an aliʻi trust and the chance to spend endless days with my children on the beaches of the Waiʻanae Coast.

Like most about the job: The unwavering mission of Queen Liliʻuokalani — to ensure the wellbeing of Hawaiian children and their ohana; it is the guiding light for our work at the trust. I also like the innovative and challenging culture of the organization. Oh … and the boxes of manapua and pork hash that Bob (Robert Ozaki, our CEO) brings in regularly. YUM!

Like least about the job: Native Hawaiian children and their ohana are overrepresented in the justice, child welfare, special education, and health care systems. Their needs are simply not being served.

Immediate priority: Broadening our vision to make a deeper system impact and creating change on a scale needed to break the cycle of poverty

What I value in my employees: Strong worth ethic, driven to excellence, great communicators, high alignment of interests to the goals and mission of the organization.

Issue that keeps me up at night: Thriving Hawaiian families, and constructing a path toward their well-being – within a system that has perpetuated poor outcomes for our children and ohana.

Most important mentor: Queen Liliʻuokalani

I’m inspired by: The resiliency of children

Favorite stress reducer: Paddling, working out at the gym, and practicing meditation

Favorite way to spend free time: Spending quality time with my family; my favorite days are beach days with the kids!

Best place I’ve traveled to: I love the hustle and bustle of New York City: the plays, restaurants; subway, museums, and Central Park!

Favorite island: It is impossible to pick a favorite island; I prefer to have a list of “favorite things to do on each island.” I love the outdoors on Kauaʻi, the city life of Honolulu, the beautiful beaches of Maui, the peacefulness of Molokai, and the expansiveness of Hawaiʻi Island.

When I was little I wanted to be: A detective. I loved solving mysteries. I think it translates to what I do today. I find great joy in solving complex problems. It’s a great expression of creativity, technical analysis, and intuition.

Book by my bedside:“The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving” by Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd; “Winning the Loser’s Game” by Charles D. Ellis (7th edition), and “Margin of Safety” by Seth A. Klarman.


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