H. Ernie Nishii has announced his candidacy for the Cerritos City Council in next year’s election, with “Better Cerritos, Better Tomorrow” as his campaign slogan, on Oct. 17 at Shadow Park in Cerritos.
Born in East Los Angeles and raised in Santa Ana, he attended Saddleback High School. At 10, he started a gardening business, which he used to help pay his way through college. He graduated with a BA in political science at UC Riverside, and shortly after that entered and graduated UCLA Law School, passing the California Bar in 1992. That same year he married Young Choi, a longtime Cerritos resident.
The birth of his daughter changed his life. At Leal Elementary School, he was part of the LEAP Foundation and grew an afterschool program that was at the core of Leal’s Blue Ribbon designation. He helped create the Winter Arts Festival, which enabled special kids to be part of the school community. Leading the foundation, he improved finances and participation, and developed a new bank of leaders to continue the next generation. He participated in the Whitney Summer Academy and is a past member of the Whitney Foundation for Educational Excellence, Whitney PTSA.
Nishii took a break from all of these these activities in 2017 to take care of his mother. She passed in 2017 and he took his volunteerism to a new level, running for office for the first time and winning a seat on the ABC School Board, Trustee Area 3.
He participated as the chair for the Safe and Modern Schools Measure BB Committee, which enabled the ABC School District to modernize and build safety enhancements for all of the children. After the passage of BB, he was elected president of the board, where he instituted many new policies and had the first board equity training.
Nishii is currently a director of the Southeast Japanese School & Community Center Board, and Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition Board, and volunteer legal counsel for Historic Wintersburg. He organized a Day of Remembrance for all 11th-grade students in the district, including a panel of Nisei who answered teachers’ and students’ questions via Zoom. His family was incarcerated during World War II, and he remembers stories his grandfather told about what happened.
“When history is only in our books and not in our hearts, we forget and repeat the sins of our past,” he said. “Quality education can enable us to rise above this.”
“If the past predicts the future, Ernie Nishii’s willingness to fight for a successful bond issue for better schools is monumental,” his campaign said in a statement. “His vision is to bring the institutions of city government and schools to work together by communicating and advocating for the citizens. He believes that there is a need to invigorate the bridge between the school and the city.”
Speakers at the rally included: Daryl David, former president, Filipino Parent Student Association, Whitney High School; Vivian Gomez, representing Assemblymember Cristina Garcia; Edgar Estrada, chair, 58th Delegation, L.A. County Democratic Party; John Allen, director of Division 3, Water Replenishment District of Southern California; Hawaiian Gardens City Councilmember Myra Maravilla; ABCUSD Board member Olga Rios; former Cerritos College Board member Jeanie McHatton; Strategic Planning Committee member Anantha Ramachandran; Gail Bosfield Swint, PTA Diversity, Unity, Equity Committee, 33rd District; Artesia/Cerritos Soroptomist President-elect Norma Williamson; and former Cerritos Mayor Diana Neeham.
Other endorsers include: SEJSCC principal and board member Kimie Matsumoto and board member Ted Yamada; Pacific Southwest District JACL Governor Nancy Takayama; Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Jenny Chomori; former Cerritos Mayor Sherman Kappe; ABCUSD Board member Brad Beach and President Sophia Tse; Cerritos College Trustee Zurich Lewis; Superior Court Judges Laura Walton and Lee Tipton; Elaine Duvali and Larry Caballero, Hubert H. Humphrey Democratic Club of Cerritos co-presidents; Alon Barlevy, former ABC Legislative Review Committee chair; Serina Yuan, ABC Strategic Committee chair; Mei Pan, ABC Legislative Review Committee.
Nishii’s next fundraiser will be on Saturday, Oct. 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. at NesTT tea house, 12158 South St. #8 in Artesia. Attendance is limited to 25 people. For more information, visit “H. Ernie Nishii for Cerritos City Council” on Facebook.