TORRANCE — Masaru Kent Kawai took office on Feb. 1 as one of seven appointed members of the Torrance Water Commission. His term expires Jan. 31, 2018.
Born on Aug. 18, 1970 in Honolulu, Kawai moved in 1979 to Torrance, where he attended Perry Elementary School in Torrance, Casimir Middle School and North High School, graduating in 1988. He attended El Camino College and transferred to CSU Northridge, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1997.
While attending CSUN, Kawai served as treasurer and vice president of the Nikkei Student Association as well the NSA representative to the CSUN Asian Pacific Student Alliance. In 1995, the APSA board appointed him as director of the Asian American Studies Activities Center.
In 1992, Kawai helped found a small multimedia company called Studio Phoenix, specializing in translating material from Japan. Their first major effort was translating the anime feature-length film “Tale of Genji.” That title was selected specifically over the popular titles that were offered because of its cultural importance to Japan and for the opportunity to educate the American population. In 1995, Kawai left the company to focus on his studies at CSUN.
That same year, he joined the South Bay Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and was later appointed as the Pacific Southwest District youth/student representative. During his tenure in that position, he had the opportunity to represent the JACL at various community events and gatherings. He continued to serve on the PSW JACL board until 1999.
After graduating from CSUN, Kawai worked in San Marcos (San Diego County) for a mid-size wire manufacturing company, Judd Wire Inc., that produced computer patch cables, automotive wire, and telecommunication wire. He started out as a process engineer overseeing and troubleshooting problems on the production line. Later he was transferred to oversee the automotive products as a chemical engineer. He also received funding to develop a small engineering library for the company. Due to restructuring, the product he oversaw was outsourced and his position was eliminated in 1999.
Kawai decided to continue his studies in Japan. He first attended a Japanese language institute for six months before he was accepted into Bukkyo University in Kyoto, where he majored in Buddhist studies. After two years, he received his postgraduate degree and became an ordained minister.
In the spring of 2002, Kawai returned to Torrance. While working toward his teaching credential at CSU Long Beach, he worked as a substitute teacher for the Torrance Unified School District.
He became a board member of the South Bay Chapter of JACL and has been its president since 2006. In 2007, he was appointed by the PSW JACL to be one of its board representatives for Little Tokyo Towers. In 2008, the district appointed him to serve as its representative to the National JACL Nominations Committee. Since 2010, Kawai has been that committee. In 2011, he became vice president of the Little Tokyo Towers Board of Directors.
Kawai was hired by TUSD in 2005 on an emergency credential to work as a science and computer technology teacher for Jefferson Middle School, where he also served as the faculty site representative for the Torrance Teachers Association. Due to the economic recession and the California budget crisis, his position was terminated in 2008.
Later that year, he was hired by the Discovery Science Center of Santa Ana as a part-time after-school science teacher. His responsibilities were expanded to include teaching waste management and recycling assemblies at elementary schools, life and physical science school assemblies, and teaching summer science programs.
In 2009, Kawai became the head instructor of the Gardena JCI Kendo Dojo, located at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. The following year, he became a dojo representative to the Southern California Kendo Federation.
In the fall of 2012, he left the Discovery Science Center to work as a physics and earth science teacher for Long Beach Polytechnic High School. He is currently the high school advisor for the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) organization.
Other organizations that Kawai is affiliated with include the Society of Automotive Engineers, Torrance Sister City Association, Arts Council of Torrance, Friends of Madrona Marsh, North Torrance Homeowners Association, and Torrance Historical Society.
The objectives of the Water Commission are to make recommendations for assuring high-quality, non-interruptible water service at the lowest possible cost. To this end, a major focus of the commission centers around working with staff to implement major capital improvements, as provided for in the Water System Master Plan. In addition, the commission advises the City Council regarding water policy/legislative matters.
The other members include Chairman Linden Nishinaga, who joined the commission on Feb. 1, 2012 and will serve until Jan. 31, 2016.
Meetings are held the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the West Annex Commission Room, 3031 Torrance Blvd., Torrance. Agendas and minutes can be viewed at www.torranceca.gov.