The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Hawaii announced today that Joshua Wisch will take over the helm next month from long-time executive director, Vanessa Chong, who is retiring. Chong became the organization’s executive director in 1984 and first joined its staff in 1981.
The search drew over 100 applicants nationwide. Wisch, who has most recently served as Special Assistant to the Hawai‘i Attorney General, has over 15 years of cross-sector professional experience in Hawaii. Wisch’s management background in addition to his understanding of Hawaii, the legislative process and past experience leading political campaigns and issue advocacy is expected to significantly advance the ACLU’s agenda statewide. Wisch earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center.
The transition comes at a critical time for the ACLU which is facing a barrage of challenges on multiple fronts including erosions to the rights of immigrants and LGBTQ individuals, attacks on reproductive health services for women and ensuring free speech and protest rights for all points of view. Additionally, the organization continues to press for much-needed reforms of the criminal justice system.
Board President Barbara Ankersmit said, “Joshua will lead ACLU’s continuing evolution in a rapidly changing climate to tirelessly assert and protect hard-won freedoms. We look forward to Joshua creating more partnerships with communities statewide.”
Wisch stated, “I am humbled to be joining the ACLU Hawaii at such an important time. Vanessa Chong’s work for more than thirty years building the Hawaii affiliate and safeguarding our civil liberties has been extraordinary. Her legacy is an inspiration and I am grateful for all the support she, the Board, and staff have provided during this transition. I am proud to join a group of people dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of everyone in our state, and assure you that my heart is in the work.”
The ACLU of Hawai‘i is an affiliate of the nationwide ACLU, the country’s premier organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties and civil rights since 1920. A non-profit and non-partisan organization, the local ACLU has more than 4,000 members and donors, a staff of seven and an annual budget of more than $1 million.