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One on One with LA County Sheriff candidate, Gardena mayor Paul Tanaka – Part I

Paul TanakaOn June 3rd LA county residents went to the polls and voted Paul Tanaka, current mayor of the City of Gardena and former LA County sheriff, the 2nd highest vote getter in a crowded field of both current and former law enforcement officers.  Tanaka has refused all interview requests since election night, and subsequent certification of the votes, until now.  Tanaka candidly discussed his childhood, career, political aspirations, turning around the failing city of Gardena and the most talked about tattoo in LA County.

Paul was raised in the outskirts of the City of Gardena along the Gardena/Los Angeles border.   At the time Don Dear was the mayor and Masani Fukai was on the city council.  Gardena is a blue collar city, where families relied on jobs and the equity in their home for survival.  Paul graduated from Gardena High School in 1976 and received a full academic scholarship to Loyola Marymount University, ensuring a catholic based education for a man raised Baptist.

Paul’s educational aspirations were to graduate with a degree in Accounting, become a CPA, go to law school, and then become a successful tax lawyer.  He achieved all of the above with the exception of heading to law school.  During his junior year, his sociology course required he do a ride along with a law enforcement agency, then give an oral report on the interaction between law enforcement and the residents.  He did his ride along in the now closed LA County Sheriff Firestone station and described it as “Disneyland’s Mr. Toads Wild Ride”.  It was during that ride along that he became fascinated with law enforcement.  Paul graduated from LMU, with an accounting degree, on Saturday, May 31st, 1980 and on Monday, June 2nd; he began his first day in the Sheriff’s academy.

Paul vividly recalls his time spent in the Sheriff’s academy.  Arriving at 5am and staying until the deputies said go home.  At the time, the sheriff’s academy trained all law enforcement officials.  He worked for El Segundo Police Department between June 1980 and May 1982.  Upon finishing the academy, he would lateral to the sheriffs in May 1982 and served for  31 years until August 2013.

By 1998, after having been an officer for nearly 16 years, Fukai approached Paul to run for Gardena city council.  The city was in dire straits and Paul was hesitant to get involved in politics.

After Fukai approached him on a second occasion, after suffering an aneurysm, Paul agreed to get involved.  He studied the city finances for all of 1997 then began campaigning in 1998. His campaign had three components:  courage, accountability and common sense leadership.

In 1999 Paul was elected to city council and set forth to turn around his troubled childhood city.

Tomorrow Part 2 – Turning around the City of Gardena



About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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