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20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2013

(page 4 of 8)

Sean Tadaki

Photo: Courtesy of Sean Tadaki

Managing Partner, Commercial Asset Advisors
Age: 37

The ponytail is a sign that Sean Tadaki is not your average commercial real estate broker.

“I studied biology and environmental science at Boston University,” says Tadaki. “I was a Birkenstock-wearing, granola-eating tree hugger. But not anymore.” He says science didn’t give him the personal interaction he craved and that’s what drew him to real estate.

Born in Washington, D.C., to Hawaii-born parents, Tadaki spent his childhood in Boston and Tokyo, where his parents were U.S. government employees.
After college, he dived into a booming Boston real estate market and found himself burning out. His parents had moved back to Hawaii a few years earlier and asked him to help them take care of family matters.

“The timing was perfect, since the market tanked in mid-2000,” recalls Tadaki.

He planned to stay in Hawaii for a year, but, now, with a wife, an infant son and his own commercial real estate firm, it’s home.

“I came from a large brokerage firm and I was out there getting accounts. We would bring in the accounts and have the team service them,” says Tadaki. “Now, when my partners and I go out, we don’t pass it off to the team. We do the work and handhold our clients. It’s not smoke and mirrors. I roll up my sleeves and do all my own paperwork. It’s a service business.”

Robert Nobriga, executive VP and CFO of Hawaii National Bank, experienced Tadaki’s work ethic first-hand. The two met more than 12 years ago when Nobriga was CFO at the UH Medical School and Tadaki offered his expertise to the school as it underwent its off-campus expansion.

“The thing I appreciated most about Sean is that I never got the sense he was focused solely on the transaction,” says Nobriga. “I quickly realized that, not only was he extremely effective at what he did for a living, but he cared about the community, he had integrity and he was a genuinely good person.”

Tadaki’s community involvement is reflected in his work on behalf of the homeless, as he serves on the boards of the Institute for Human Services and Mental Health Kokua.

“My skill set is really as a strong connector. I enjoy matching the right people to get things done. That manifests in both business and nonprofits. I’m never the smartest guy in the room, but I’m usually the most outgoing.”

Dina Shek

Photo: David Croxford

Legal Director, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children
Age: 42

Dina Shek aspired to be a cellist while studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, but family history and life experiences led her elsewhere.

“My mother was born in Lodi, Calif., just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor,” says Shek, whose mother is of Japanese ancestry. “As an infant, she was interned in internment camps, along with my grandparents and uncles, in Rowher, Ark., and later at Tule Lake, Calif.”

As a college student, Shek studied that period of history and served as the graduate intern for the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, which was the education arm of the Japanese-American redress, officially called the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Shek worked with civil rights hero Fred Korematsu and his attorneys, including UH law professor Eric Yamamoto.

“Through this work, I was instilled with the ‘never again’ mantra, that this kind of injustice should never happen again to any vulnerable communities,” says Shek. “I think that is why I feel so connected to the Micronesian community in Hawaii. I see parallels of how discriminatory policies and racist media imagery feed off each other, creating distorted images of the community.”

Shek decided to apply to law school at UH. She graduated in 2006 and launched the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children at the Kokua Kalihi Valley Health Center in 2009, forging a partnership between the community health clinic and the school of law.

Avi Soifer, dean at the law school, says Shek has skillfully combined her skills as both lawyer and community organizer.

“Dina has a sense of people, is keen, analytic, with a strategic sense, and an abiding concern to serve the most vulnerable in the community,” he says.  “There are very few like her who are able to do this and accomplish so much in a low-key way.”

Shek’s agency integrates legal assistance and health care, a model created in Boston.

“A doctor at that Boston clinic was seeing a child with chronic asthma. The mom kept bringing the child in and she had to miss work,” explains Shek. “It turned out to be a housing problem with a leaky roof causing the health problem. The doctor wrote a letter and it was ignored. A lawyer wrote a letter and people listened. The model was that families shouldn’t have to go to 10 different agencies to seek help. Everything can be done at the health clinic.”

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