Iolani grad one of highest ranking Hawaii people in Obama administration

Iolani grad one of highest ranking Hawaii people in Obama administration
Nani Coloretti
Nani Coloretti

Honolulu (HawaiiNewsNow) – One of the highest ranking officials in the administration of President Barack Obama who grew up in Hawaii said she learned how to "stay calm" and get along with different people during childhood in the islands, skills she uses every day in Washington, D.C.

Nani Coloretti, 43, was back home on vacation this week from the nation's capital, where she's the sixth highest ranking official at the Treasury Department . Her office is right next door to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

"When you grow up in Hawaii, you learn how to get along with everybody, And that's helped me a lot," said Coloretti.

Coloretti holds two titles at the Treasury Department these days; acting assistant secretary for management as well as deputy assistant secretary for management and budget.

She is filling the assistant secretary for management post made vacant when Daniel Tangherlini became acting administrator of the General Services Administration in April, after the GSA's administrator resigned because of scandals involving lavish spending at GSA employee training and conference events.

Last year, a White House photographer snapped photos as Coloretti met one-on-one with President Obama in the oval office to discuss her work helping to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That's when she told him she was from the Kapahulu, Kaimuki area.

"Of course he wanted to know, 'What high school did you go to?'" Coloretti said, laughing.

That's when she told him she graduated from Iolani School in 1987.  President Obama is a 1979 graduate of Punahou School, one of Iolani's cross-town rivals.

"That's right, I proudly stood tall for Iolani high school, which is, as you know, a fantastic high school. So I think he knew there was an Iolani girl in his administration somewhere," Coloretti said.

Coloretti met with the president by herself for about five minutes.

Asked if she was intimidated, she said, "No, I was trying to crack a joke.  I had to work in my Iolani thing. I had stuff I had to talk about."

Coloretti is used to dealing with high-pressure situations.  Since she joined the Treasury Department three years ago, she has been in charge of explaining and justifying the Treasury Department's budget to Congress.

She also oversaw efforts to disclose the billions of dollars of the Treasury Department's Recovery Act spending online.

"Congress and the president, even our prior president, asked Treasury to implement a lot of complicated programs costing billions and billions of dollars.  And when you spend that kind of money people want to know where it's going and that it's being taken care of properly," Coloretti said.

In July, the president appointed her to the Government Accountability and Transparency Board, a group of inspectors general and other officials charged with making the federal government more open to scrutiny by the public.

The transparency board grew out of the Recovery Act, Coloretti said, and it is working to integrate information from 23 federal departments so taxpayers can go to the web and see where their federal money is being spent.

"Which should be really easy to do, but of course, it's the federal government. So we have multiple data systems and we're trying to integrate them and show people where their money is going," Coloretti said.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Coloretti got her first full-time job as a  budget analyst for the Public Safety Department in Hawaii in 1991 and 1992. She later moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997, during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

She also served as director of policy, planning and budget for the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families from 1999 to 2005. Coloretti was budget director for the city of San Francisco for three years, working for Mayor Gavin Newsom, before joining the Obama administration in 2009.

Others who grew up in Hawaii and are working in the Obama administration include Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs and Pat Loui, who's a member of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Shinseki was born and raised on Kauai and graduated from Kauai High School in 1960.

Tammy Duckworth, who moved to Hawaii when she was 16, served as the assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs at the Veterans department for two years, until July of 2011.  A Democrat, Duckworth is running for Congress in Illinois' 8th district, challenging Republican freshman Joe Walsh. Duckworth is a double-amputee veteran who graduated from McKinley High School in 1985.

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