AADAP announces a change of leadership
By PAULINA HONG
After 46 years at Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Inc. (AADAP), Dr. Michael “Mike” Watanabe will step down as President and CEO and pass the torch to current Executive Director Dean Nakanishi.
With this action, the AADAP board of directors is implementing its succession plan which has been developed over the years. Following his annual board meeting on July 29, Mike will assume emeritus status and continue to support the transition to December 30. Dean will assume the role of General Manager on August 1, 2021.
Mike Watanabe has dedicated 46 years of his life to AADAP, including 39 years at the head of the organization. Under his tenure, the agency grew from a small grassroots organization with 20 employees to a large full service agency with over 120 professional employees serving a significant portion of Los Angeles County through ten service locations.
Mike started working at AADAP in 1975 as a counselor in the TC (therapeutic community) and rose through the ranks until he became President and CEO in 1982. Prior to AADAP, he was a Vietnam War veteran and received an MSW degree from UCLA. He was chairman of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON, founded 1977), a Los Angeles County consortium of more than 40 community agencies, and chaired its committee on drugs, alcohol and tobacco for 12 years.
He was commissioner of the Los Angeles County Commission on Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs for 16 years. He chaired the Asian and Pacific Islands Constituent Committee as an advisor to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (DADP) for eight years. He is a founding board member of the National Asian Pacific Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA, founded 1986), a national organization of drug and alcohol agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
During these activities, he offered workshops, seminars, testimonies and consultations in local jurisdictions to national sites. He has also received numerous awards, certificates and government resolutions recognizing his work and contributions to the community. In 2017, his alma mater, CSU Northridge, and administrators at California State University awarded him an honorary doctorate in human letters (LHD) in recognition of his long-standing work in the social service field.
Dean Nakanishi, the current Executive Director, will assume the role of President and CEO in August 2021. Dean was originally hired at AADAP as a Job Developer for funding under the Partnership Act Vocational Training Center (JTPA) and held this position for five years. . Since 1997 Dean has been the Administrative Director of AADAP.
Dean’s responsibilities include facility operations, information systems, human resources and contract compliance. Dean has been involved in all aspects of agency business planning, fundraising, operational design and maintenance and contract compliance. During his time here, Dean is especially proud to have participated in the expansion of AADAP over the past 20 years with employment services, HIV / AIDS awareness activities, sober homes and a new the head office.
As AADAP’s second in command for 25 years, Dean has been preparing for this next step for many years. In 2012, Dean assumed the independent management of the agency for four months, when Mike took an extended leave. He managed major improvements in agency operations and provided leadership in risk management, electronic health records (EHRs), human resources (HR) practices, COVID protection and protocols, and finally to reach the prestigious Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Establishments (CARF).
Long before the formal succession plan, the board supported his preparation by supporting his training with a stipend for a combined Bachelor of Business Management and MBA program at Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business while working full time.