RAFU STAFF REPORT
Christine Sato-Yamazaki has stepped down as president and chief executive officer of the Go For Broke National Education Center. The organization’s board of directors on Friday appointed second-term Alhambra City Councilmember and fellow GFBNEC Board Member Gary Yamauchi to be interim president/CEO. The board also elected Michael Ozawa, senior managing director of corporate finance at FTI Consulting, as chairman, following the departure of chairman Kevin Tamaki, who tendered his resignation last week.
In a statement on Monday, Sato-Yamazaki, who has been with Go For Broke since 1997, said, “It has truly been my honor to be part of the organization for the past 12 years, and more importantly, to play a role in helping to preserve the legacy of the Japanese American World War II veterans by using their stories to educate the public about citizenship. I recognize that new leadership is now needed to take Go For Broke National Education Center to the next level of growth and look forward to seeing the progress that will be a permanent and eternal tribute to the Nisei soldiers.”
The board credited Sato-Yamazaki with establishing some of the Torrance-based organization’s most significant programs, including the Hanashi Oral History Program, which has captured more than 1,000 oral histories of Nisei veterans. She also co-produced “A Tradition of Honor,” which has been incorporated into the GFBNEC teacher training program, and was executive producer of the DVD film, “Going for Broke.” Sato-Yamazaki is the granddaughter of a World War II Nisei veteran.
Yamauchi said that the board will be initiating a search in the next few months for a new executive and explained that one of the reasons for the change was the need for new leadership as it moves forward with plans to construct a headquarters in Little Tokyo. In December, Congress approved $1.5 million for construction of the building to be located next to the Go For Broke Monument.
Sato-Yamazaki will stay at Go For Broke until June 4. Her assistant, Stephanie Lee, will take over handling day-to-day duties, Yamauchi explained.
“There’s been some change, mainly because Go for Broke has gone national and there’s a new building coming up and we just think that Go For Broke is getting to a point where we need additional help and a little bit more expertise. That was the reason. Especially with Christine, she felt it was a little overwhelming for her,” said Yamauchi.
The interim president/CEO also acknowledged that there had been tension between Sato-Yamazaki and the Nisei veterans, who have supported Go For Broke since its inception and continued to volunteer at the office.
“That was true that veterans were not coming to the office. There were some issues which, to be honest, involve Christine, and with her resignation those issues are resolved. The ones who were not coming, will be coming,” said Yamauchi. “I think you’re going to hear from this point on, all the veterans are happy and satisfied and coming back and doing extra work to volunteer. One of my jobs is to go talk to them and hope that they’ll become good followers.”
Yamauchi, 66, currently serves as vice mayor of Alhambra, and is the owner/founder of Tri-Star Vending, one of the largest independent vending services businesses in Southern California. His wife’s uncle, Joe Kadowaki, served in the 442nd RCT, and his uncle served in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.
“I don’t’ have that much time, but for the vets I’ll give them anything they need. So I want to take this on right now,” he said.