Meet Nancy McPherson

Amongst the cast of usual suspects scattered through Molokai planning meetings  there is  new face which you may have seen. Her name Nancy McPherson and she’s a workaholic.

In October 2006, she became Molokai’s first full time, on-island Molokai Planner.  McPherson is the go-to person for help with planning permits and changes in zoning.  Working closely with Maui County over the internet and with the local planning commission, she handles a myriad of tasks pertaining to state land use designation, zoning, SMA boundaries, and a myriad of other issues within the field of planning. Though her list of responsibilities may sound complex, the intent behind McPherson’s job is quite simple: she’s here to help.

“I’m here to provide more services more quickly to the people of Molokai,” she says, laughing.  Her face lights up when she talks of working with the public; she seems attuned to the Molokai in a way which you would not expect from a newcomer of only four months. 

 Nancy heard that the community wanted a Molokai planner but would prefer native Hawaiian born and raised on Molokai.  Initially struggling with the idea, she was repeatedly urged to apply by the department.  Her conscience was eased by the idea that she could help to find and train a suitable young replacement from Molokai.  “In the meantime,” Nancy says, “I’m here and I’m gonna do the best job I can.”

McPherson is nonchalant about her workload; although she begins at 8:15 every morning and works on weekends, one gets the feeling that she would be working this hard.  “It’s not all fun,” she explains, “but it’s rewarding.”

Hard work and integrity are a part of her family history.  Her Great, Great Grandmother, a full-blooded Lakota Indian, followed Chief Sitting Bull into Canada. The woman endured years of starvation and hardship and, through it all, raised a daughter who would become an important translator for her tribe. 

Today, the same cultural pride is ingrained within McPherson’s identity and has given her an interest in other indigenous people. “When I visited Hawaii at 10 years old, something inside me resonated,” she says.  Returning to study at The University of Hawaii in the year 2000 with an interest in refocusing modern land systems upon traditional models, Nancy developed a desire to restore the concept of ahupua`a to modern Hawaii. 

Nancy explains of working with the public that “as the Molokai community planner, I can hear their manao directly and daily.”  As Chief Sitting Bull once said “let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”


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