Home Community Densho Director Search Update

Densho Director Search Update

Ron Tanemura, Densho Board Chair. Photo: David Yamaguchi

By David Yamaguchi The North American Post

At noon on Wed Mar 30, Densho held a meeting to update interested community members on the progress of its two-week-old search for a replacement for outgoing Executive Director Tom Ikeda. About 37 attended.

The most important takeaway from the Zoom session was that Densho is asking everyone for their help in identifying possible candidates at this early stage in the search. According to Liz Lombard, Managing Director of Koya Partners running the search, they would initially want 600-800 candidate names for a position like this (high-profile nonprofit). They’re now at about 200.

As the Densho ED position is necessarily multifaceted, Ikeda began the discussion by saying that “they’re not necessarily looking for someone… in business or tech. We don’t know where this person will come from.”

Ikeda, now 66, used his late-thirties self as an example, as Densho wasn’t something he was looking into at the time.

“I was not on the radar of Japanese American organizations… There might be someone out there that we don’t know.” 

Scott Oki, then on the Densho board, simply reached out to him, as Oki knew Ikeda from both having worked for Microsoft. 

Ron Tanemura, chair of the Densho Board of Directors, and present “driver” of the transition, continued from there.

“Leadership matters… A good leader makes everyone around him stronger… the main non-negotiables are grit and connection to mission (making the universal story of Japanese American history accessible)… beyond this they’ll have specific skills… no one will check all the boxes… there are many candidates who can do the job. It doesn’t help us or the candidate if we can’t find a good fit.”

Tanemura added that they need such nominations “now,” like this week. He also commented that it is important at this stage to not “weed out” candidates early.

“They may think they don’t have the skills yet. (Thirty-something) Tom didn’t have the skills either. He grew into the job.”

“It might not be the right time…. But this job won’t be available in two years…”

Tanemura: “What I’m really asking is we just have to get the word out. We really need your help… your network… your friends…”

Sarah Beckman (Densho staff): “It is okay to just share ideas — I think this person might be great.”

Additional selected Q&A between the participants:

Q: Does the person need to be part or all JA?

Ikeda: No, it is alignment with the mission that is the critical connection.

Q: Is fundraising important (that is, a key part of the position)?

Ikeda: “Fund development is very important. Continuing the growth of Densho in a linear way would be the expectation.”

Q: “Is it essential that the Director live in Seattle?” 

Tanemura: “No….”

Lombard: “The goal is to have a long-term leader.”

To most easily make a nomination, there is a one-click button at Koya Partners (koyapartners.com). Further position details are available there and on the Densho website (densho.org).