Nikkei Candidates Elected to SoCal City Council, School Board Seats


Rafu Staff Report

At least three Nikkei candidates emerged victorious in local races in Los Angeles County on Tuesday.

Jack Tanaka

• In Diamond Bar, incumbent Jack Tanaka finished first in the City Council race with 3,220 votes (46.55 percent), followed by fellow incumbent Carol Herrera with 2,228 (32.21 percent). In third place and out of contention was Dr. Shawn Dhand with 1,469 (21.24 percent).

Tanaka, 63, was first elected in June 2005 and served as mayor in 2008. Prior to that, he served on the city’s Planning Commission for over three years, including one term as vice chairman. He currently serves as City Council delegate to the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority, and alternate delegate to the California Contract Cities Association.

Born in San Fernando, Tanaka was raised in East Los Angeles and earned his bachelor’s degree from CSU Long Beach. He retired as a master sergeant from the U.S. Army Reserves after serving 23 years in the 349th General Hospital Unit, where he spent six years as the hospital company first sergeant responsible for 500 enlisted soldiers. He also spent 30 years working as a peace officer for the California Youth Authority and Department of Corrections, supervising and managing parole agents and staff.

Tanaka and his wife, Wanda, moved to Diamond Bar in 1976 and have remained actively involved in community matters. Their efforts were recognized with the L.A. County Fairplex Community Heroes Award in 2007, the West Coast Magazine Stellar Citizens Award and California Parks and Recreation Society Community Service Award in 2005, and the city’s Outstanding Community Volunteers Award in 2003.

A 24-year member and six-time president of the Diamond Bar Breakfast Lions Club, he was named Region and District President of the Year in 2005, District Lion of the Year in 2003, and Lion of the Year on four occasions.

Tanaka has assisted in the coordination of the student speaker and peace poster contest organized by the Lions Club, and the annual easter egg hunt co-hosted by the city and the Lions Club. He helped establish the Leo Club at Chaparral Middle School and Diamond Bar High, and he and his wife serve as the clubs’ advisors.

In addition, Tanaka is a 21-year member and past president of the California Asian Peace Officers Association and is involved in its fundraising efforts. He is a supporter of the Inland Valley Humane Society, the Miss Diamond Bar Pageant, the firefighters’ Spark of Love toy drive and Fill-the-Boot campaign, and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

During the campaign, he said his goals are to maintain public safety, mitigate traffic in the city, maintain representation of Diamond Bar residents, youth involvement, continuing the city’s beautification program, and helping local businesses. His slogan was “Serving Diamond Bar from the Heart.”

Tanaka also told the Diamond Bar Patch, “If you vote for me, you get twice the representation with Wanda and myself.”

Pamela Kawasaki

• In the race for the Duarte Unified School District Governing Board, incumbent Pamela S. Kawasaki placed second in a race for three seats. Small business owner Tom N. Reyes was in first place with 1,113 votes (18.02 percent), followed by Kawasaki with 1,109 (17.96 percent) and incumbent Francisco Figueroa with 1,060 (17.16 percent). Also running were architectural designer Dave Hall, incumbent Rose Brooks-Mitchell, and production manager Dolores T. Ortiz.

First elected in 2003, Kawasaki, 56, served as vice president in 2006 and president in 2010. She has been a volunteer in local schools for the past seven years and a member of the Superintendent’s Community Education Council and the Royal Oaks and Northview PTAs.

Kawasaki received the Golden Apple Award in 2002 for her cross-age tutoring programs and a variety of other projects.

Her family has resided in the Duarte area for the past 45 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Mt. Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles and has lived in the district most of her life.

In an interview with the Pasadena Star-News, Kawasaki said, “Our financial budget is sound and we’re fiscally solvent. We didn’t issue any pink slips this year, no furlough days. The district did have an ending fund balance (different than reserves) higher than projected due partly to monies the state was expected to take away but didn’t.”

She said her goals include raising the district’s API (Academic Performance Index) scores, turning Maxwell Elementary School into an International Baccalaureate school, and continuing a new program whereby all high school graduates by 2020 will have at least one year of college credit.

Jeanie Nishime

• In the El Segundo Unified School District, Jeanie M. Nishime won one of two open seats on the board. Community volunteer Laura S. Gabel was first with 1,104 votes (35.87 percent) and Nishime second with 940 (30.54 percent). Also running were incumbent Lisa C. Wilkin and interactive art director Stephen H. Cook.

Nishime is vice president of student and community advancement at El Camino College and has served as a teacher, counselor and dean of counseling.  Prior to her current assignment, she was the dean of counseling for a total of 15 years at Riverside Community College, followed by Pasadena City College.

She began her community college career at Fullerton College in a classified position as the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services peer counseling coordinator. She eventually became the EOPS counselor, then the matriculation coordinator at Fullerton College. She continued to coordinate matriculation activities at both Pasadena and Riverside community colleges.

Nishime received her Ed.D. in institutional management from Pepperdine University, an MS in counseling from CSU Long Beach, and her BS in psychology from Point Loma College in San Diego.

Born and raised in Japan, but educated in English, she has traveled extensively in Europe and Asia. She has a great interest in culture and international education. Professionally, she has been a facilitator with the International Chair Academy and served for three years as co-chair of the Management Development Commission of the Association of California Community College Administrators. In 2009, she received the ACCCA Volunteer of the Year award.

“As an advocate for public education for 30 years and a parent of three El Segundo Unified School District graduates, I have the passion, experience and knowledge necessary to navigate our school district through these challenging budgetary times,” Nishime said in a statement.

“We need to raise student achievement and create multiple learning opportunities for all students and teachers alike. I will work with other community leaders to provide the necessary tools to ensure student achievement and enlist parent groups, community organizations, local universities and businesses to secure their investment in the future of our youth.

“I am ready to take this next step on behalf of the families of our great community and ask you to join me as we face the challenges ahead to build a better tomorrow today. Working together, we can realize the full potential of all our students.”

Her endorsers included El Segundo Mayor Eric Busch, City Councilmember Don Brann, El Segundo Chamber of Commerce President Mike Rotolo, and former ESUSD board member Kathy Wiley.


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