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Department of Research and Development - Staff

DIRECTOR:  Diane L. Ley

DIANE L. LEY is the Director of the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawai‘i where she oversees the delivery of programs and services that enhance the quality of life and sustainability of Hawai‘i Island communities through leadership in the areas of energy, agriculture, tourism, economic and community development, film and immigration.

Diane previously served as the State Executive Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Hawai‘i and the Pacific Basin, the Deputy Director of the County of Hawai‘i’s Department of Research and Development and as the Deputy to the Chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. She operated a vegetable farm in Volcano and has served roles with the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation and the Hilo Main Street Program.


RON WHITMORE has been working in community and economic development for 25 years. He has been a Peace Corps volunteer, the executive director of a nonprofit community organization, and a small business owner. Ron came to R&D from the County Planning Department, where he’d served as a senior long range planner since 2007.

Ron graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and has a PhD in Community Sustainability from Michigan State University. He has knowledge of and experience with agriculture, economic development, research, program development, and grant management.  Ron has served as President of the Halā‘i Kumiai and the Hilo Aquatic Club, and he enjoys swimming and playing soccer. 


NICOLE CHARON serves as the Private Secretary to the Director of the Department of Research and Development. She organizes and coordinates administrative matters and performs various duties for the department.

Nicole was born and raised on Hawai‘i Island. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Before joining the County, Nicole worked at Floral Resources Hawaii, where she gained over 10 years of administrative and accounting experience. Prior to being appointed as Private Secretary, Nicole was the Administrative Assistant for the department.