SANTA ANA — The Orange County Human Relations Commission elected Laguna Hills CPA Ken Inouye as chair at the regularly scheduled meeting on June 12.
Currently vice chair, he will assume leadership at the commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 14.
Inouye is a Huntington Beach resident who has served as a representative of the Orange County Board of Supervisors to the commission since April 1993, including various leadership roles.
He was appointed to the commission after he became aware of hate crimes that were being perpetrated against members of his Japanese American community. His outrage was turned to action and he set upon a journey to bring together all victims of hate crime and the good folks of Orange County to eliminate hate crime. An effective advocate, Inouye also has the diplomacy to work will all people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or other arbitrary aspects of their being.
After a hate crime murder followed by a near murder within a year, he worked with the commission and the Huntington Beach City Council and Police Department to lead a newly created Huntington Beach Human Relations Task Force, which continues today.
Inouye was especially proud of the fact that the City Council recognized various pride months, including Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. He felt this was indicative of his vision for an Orange County where all people are safe, valued and included.
He has long served in various local civic organizations and served a term as the national president of the Japanese American Citizens League, the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States, as well as governor of JACL’s Pacific Southwest District.
“As Orange County continues to undergo dramatic demographic changes, I have confidence that our diverse community leaders, police, elected officials and the public can come together to realize a future where all are included and respected.” Inouye said. “As chair of the commission, I would like us to go out and continue our ‘Listening Sessions,’ where we learn about the life experiences and stories of our diverse communities. And these insights can be shared countywide to build mutual understanding.”
Becky Esparza of Stanton was elected vice chair of the commission. After 32 years on the job, she has the distinction of being the longest-serving human relations commissioner in California.
Esparza has been a resident of the Stanton Barrio, “Crow Village,” for 43 years. She and her husband Robert, a construction worker, raised their four sons in that home. Robert died of cancer in 2010.
Esparza’s promising educational achievements were cut short when, as a devout daughter, she dropped out of high school in order to take care of her ailing mother. In later years, while raising a family and working to make her community safe for young people, she did pursue higher education at Fullerton Community College, where she was an honor roll student and was awarded the prestigious “Woman of Distinction” award.
Now a grandmother to seven, she has been godmother to this low-income, predominantly Latino barrio for over 30 years. Her cool head and courageous heart prevailed when drive-by shootings and inter-barrio warfare threatened to destroy her neighborhood and family. In a tragic incident her son was critically injured in a drive-by shooting, so the issues of peace and violence are near and dear to her heart.
Also serving on the commission are Nadia Saad Bettendorf, Timothy Kowal, Chief Dave Maggard, Bang Van Pham, Rev. David Rader, Rabbi Richard Steinberg, Carol Turpen, C. William Wood and Doug Wooley.
Commission meetings, which are open to the public, are held on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in Conference Room A/B on the main floor of Building B, 1300 S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana. Guests are invited to speak during the open forum at the beginning of each meeting. For more information, call (714) 567-7470 or visit www.ochumanrelations.org.