Rafu Staff Report

In addition to Los Angeles County candidates Paul Tanaka (for sheriff) and Tracy Okida (for assessor), Japanese American candidates are running for county and city offices around the state in the June 3 election.

Karen Sakata
Karen Sakata

• In Contra Costa County, Karen Sakata is a candidate for superintendent of schools. Her opponent is Linda Delehunt, a school administrator and consultant. The winner will succeed Superintendent Joseph Ovick, who is not seeking re-election. Sakata, who is currently deputy superintendent, was endorsed by The Contra Costa Times as the “obvious choice.”

A Sansei whose parents were interned during World War II, Sakata was born and raised in San Francisco and received a BA in psychology from UC Berkeley and an MA in speech pathology from San Jose State University. Her career has spanned 15 years in general education and 21 years in special education, starting as a speech language pathologist. She was the first Asian American administrator in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. With the Contra Costa County Office of Education, she has served as associate superintendent of student programs and services (2008-10), associate superintendent of human resources (2010-12) and deputy superintendent since 2012.

Joanne Motoike
Joanne Motoike

• In Fresno County, Superior Court Judge Dale Ikeda of Judicial District 12 does not appear on the ballot because the race is uncontested. He was appointed by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2000 and elected in 2008.

• In Orange County, Superior Court Judge Joanne Motoike of Office 27, who was appointed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, is up for re-election. Her opponent is trial lawyer and businessman Wayne Phillips. The Orange County Register has endorsed her, calling her “exceptionally well-qualified.” A Sansei whose father was interned during World War II, she received her undergraduate degree from UC Irvine and her law degree from Loyola Law School. She was an Orange County deputy public defender (1994-2006), a trial attorney for the U.N. at the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague (2006-08), and Orange County senior deputy public defender (2008-13).

Kathy Yamada Sutherland
Kathy Yamada Sutherland

• In the City of San Jose, Kathy Yamada Sutherland is one of six candidates for Council District 3. She has served as chief of staff to San Jose Councilmember Nancy Pyle, an elected member of the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Project Area Committee, manager of the West San Carlos Street Neighborhood Business Association, and co-chair of the 2003 Diridon/Arena Strategic Development Plan Committee. She also founded the Demas Park Neighborhood Association in Downtown. Having moved Downtown with her husband in 1980 and raised two daughters there, she is known as a strong advocate for neighborhoods.

The other candidates are Don Gagliardi, community businessman; Raul Peralez, police officer and teacher; John Hosmon, EMT and union treasurer; Mauricio Mejia, business owner/entrepreneur; and George Kleidon, teacher and youth coach. The seat is currently held by Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who is running for mayor.

Other San Jose candidates include Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, who is running for mayor; Assemblymember Paul Fong, who is running for District 1 councilmember; and Council District 7 hopefuls Buu Thai, board president of the Franklin-McKinley School District; Van Le, a trustee of the East Side Union High School District; and attorney Tam Nguyen.

Following are candidates’ profiles from their respective websites.

Karen Sakata

Karen has always had an affinity for and a “special place in her heart” for students with challenges. She believes the goal of public education is to find and build upon the strengths of every student, and to find ways to support every child’s individual learning goal.

Karen believes in being actively involved in professional organizations; both California Speech Language and Hearing Association (CSHA), and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). She has been director for Region 3 of CSHA, president of the Diablo Managers Association for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District ACSA Charter, and vice president-programs and president for ACSA Region 6. Currently she serves as vice president-legislative action for ACSA Region 6, which represents Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Karen received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley in psychology and her MA from San Jose State University in speech pathology. She holds credentials that include Restricted Speech and Hearing with special class authorization, Resource Specialist Certificate, and Administrative Services. She is a licensed speech language pathologist and has a Certificate of Clinical Competences (CCC)-Speech Pathology from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA).

Karen was the first Asian American administrator in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and the first Cabinet-level administrator in the Contra Costa County Office of Education. She is the ACSA Region 6 Central Office Administrator of the Year (AOY) 2014.

Karen is a third generation Japanese American, Sansei. Her parents, graduates of UC Berkeley and USC, were interned during World War II in relocation/concentration camps in Topaz, Utah and Poston, Arizona. Karen was born and raised in San Francisco and currently resides in Alamo, Calif. with her husband, Shima. She has two sons: Scott, who will graduate optometry school in Philadelphia in May 2014, and Kurt, who graduated in animal sciences from UC Davis and manages a veterinary hospital. Both sons were graduates of Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif. Karen’s hobbies include coaching basketball and playing taiko, Japanese big drums. She also loves playing with her loving yellow labrador, Sushi.

Joanne Motoike

Judge Joanne Motoike has served and protected the public during her legal career spanning more than two decades. She is committed to preserving access to justice and upholding the law while making fair but tough decisions in her courtroom.

Early on, Judge Joanne Motoike learned the value of a hard work ethic and sacrifice as the daughter of second-generation Japanese Americans who built a family business as farmers that operates still today. She developed a deep interest in the law when she learned stories of her father and neighboring families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. She went on to receive distinction on the Dean’s List while at University of California, Irvine and in 1993 earned a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School.

As a war crimes prosecutor for the United Nations at the International Criminal Tribunal in the Netherlands, she maneuvered an extremely complex legal system that relied upon jurisprudence from all over the world. As a key member of multilingual trial teams with working partners including the U.S. State Department, she prosecuted high-level political figures for murder, torture, cruelty and crimes against humanity.

At the Office of the Public Defender, Joanne Motoike worked in supervisorial positions as both a misdemeanor coordinator and felony preliminary hearing coordinator.

Judge Joanne Motoike was selected to serve as judge through a competitive appointment process that took into consideration her solid reputation, stellar credentials and comprehensive legal background. In earning the confidence of peers and public leaders, she was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Orange County Superior Court.

Judge Joanne Motoike serves communities beyond the courtroom. Her service has included teaching English at a school for underprivileged children overseas, serving as a mentor for runaway youth with the Covenant House as well as a ten-year volunteer coach for Rosary High School’s Mock Trial Team. Her legal professional involvement includes California Women Lawyers Association, Japanese American Bar Association, Orange County Asian American Bar Association and Orange County Bar Association. Judge Joanne Motoike and her husband are proud parents of one son.

In serving the people of Orange County, Judge Motoike works every day with respect for the office the public has entrusted to her. She protects objectivity in her courtroom while ensuring cases are handled in a timely and fair manner the public deserves.

Kathy Yamada Sutherland

Kathy Sutherland is a strong advocate for neighborhoods with City Hall experience. She has been a leader in creating strong neighborhood associations and has a successful track record of supporting economic development while balancing open space protection.

Raised in San Jose, Kathy and her husband, Craig, bought their Downtown home in 1980 in a neglected area of San Jose where auto body shops were built next door to family homes. They saw the potential of the area and decided to establish their roots and raise their family here.

Living Downtown sparked Kathy’s advocacy for her neighborhood and led to her founding the Delmas Park Neighborhood Association. Kathy was also a key member of the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Project, serving as the Neighborhood Advisory Committee president from 2001-2007.

As co-chair of the Diridon/Arena Strategic Development Plan, Kathy helped guide the long-term development around this 166-acre parcel, including the overall character of the Arena, surrounding neighborhoods and public amenities and planning the public transit infrastructure to accommodate this growth.

Kathy understands that prosperous, safe communities are built upon quality public schools. For four years, Kathy serviced as the Destination Imagination team manager and program coordinator to mentor underachieving boys in our public middle schools. She was also an active volunteer in her daughters’ schools, eventually becoming a service unit manager for the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County. During this time, the city enlisted her support to successfully encourage San Jose Betsuin Buddhist Temple troops to become more interactive with other troops in the Downtown San Jose Service Unit.

In 1996, Kathy launched her own small business, where she worked with community organizations and nonprofits to coordinate special events, with a focus on the greater Downtown area, including Bark in the Park, Pumpkins in the Park, and the Guadalupe River Park Grand Opening. Kathy also worked for the West San Carlos Street Neighborhood Business Association as a liaison between businesses, residents, the school district, and city departments.

Due to her extensive work with neighborhoods and small businesses, in 2007 Kathy was hired by Councilmember Nancy Pyle as a policy advisor for economic development. In this role, she worked with businesses and the city Planning Department to ensure businesses had the support from the city that they needed to succeed and grow. She later became chief of staff, working closely with residents and City Hall staff on development projects as well as park and trail improvements. This experience gives Kathy a unique understanding of City Hall and is qualified to successfully navigate city government to better serve constituents.

Kathy and her husband Craig raised their two daughters, Rachel and Lauren, in their Downtown home and the girls attended local public schools. Today Rachel is a family practice resident and Lauren is a sixth-grade teacher. She has two grandchildren, soon to grow to four.

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