Carpinteria’s Wade Nomura talks about community service and more in ‘Creating Destiny’
Wade Nomura has lived a life of adventure.
The Carpinteria mayor has done everything from winning BMX races to going around the world on trips that made a difference.
The longtime landscaper — yes, he’s done that too — talks about all of that in “Creating Destiny.”
The new self-published autobiography is selling for $29.95 at wadenomura.com. By the way, the website mentions the mayor’s 19 years in Rotary, the 15 countries he has spoken in and 50 international project trips.
Mr. Nomura has been busy, and he has a story to tell.
“I’ve been planning to write an autobiography that would be passed down to my kids, a glimpse of history that you could keep and hand down from generation to generation,” Mr. Nomura, 67, told the News-Press this week. “But my wife Debbie decided, ‘This is a story you should be telling everybody.’ ”
Mr. Nomura, a Santa Barbara native, said his wife helped him greatly in trimming a 700-page manuscript to approximately 250 pages with “a focus on inspiring others to lead a life of service.” He praised her for working with him on “Creating Destiny.”
“The components of the book are growing, living and giving,” he said.
The mayor’s story begins with his family and the internment of parents, William and Kathleen Nomura, and his grandparents in Poston, Ariz., during World War II. They were among the 100,000-plus Japanese Americans who were interned.
Much lower numbers of German Americans and Italian Americans were relocated to internment camps.
“They (authorities) told the Japanese Americans they would be relocated to another place that was safer for them because of anti-vigilante violence,” Mr. Nomura said. “But when they got to the camp, they were surrounded by barb wire, and the towers were all armed. It was scary.
“When they first got there, they didn’t have much of anything,” Mr. Nomura said. “They had to stuff gunny sacks with hay for their mattresses.
“My grandmother and mother put up blankets for walls,” Mr. Nomura said. “As many as three or four families were in each barrack, and the barracks weren’t very big.”
He said his family was always hungry in the camp.
But after World War II, Mr. Nomura’s father, the late William Nomura, was eager to prove his patriotism and was glad to serve America when he was drafted during the Korean War, Mr. Nomura said.
“Most people in current times would anticipate there would be animosity toward the people who had interned them,” Mr. Nomura said. “But that generation was a very quiet generation, and a lot of them enlisted in the Army and fought in World War II in France and Germany.”
Mr. Nomura, who was born in 1953 in Santa Barbara, graduated in 1971 from Santa Barbara High School. He followed in his family’s footsteps and became a landscaper.
“To be honest, I never thought I would be a landscaper when I was younger. I hated it,” Mr. Nomura said. “My father made me work when I was 8 or 9 years old.”
But as a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he was figuring out what to do with the rest of his life. And he realized that thanks to the lessons from his father and grandfather, he had useful expertise in landscaping. After earning his bachelor’s in ornamental horticulture in 1976 at Cal Poly, he began his lifetime career in landscaping.
And after moving to Carpinteria in 1977, Mr. Nomura found the city where he wanted to live for the rest of his life. He explained he liked the city better than Santa Barbara because it was smaller. “I thought Santa Barbara had gotten a little too big and that it didn’t have the warm and fuzzy feeling you have in Carpinteria. That’s why I ended up moving to Carpinteria. It’s a great place for my kids, and you know everybody.”
Mr. Nomura and his late wife, Roxanne Shinoda Nomura, had a son, current Ventura resident Ryan, and daughter, Lisa Shinoda, who, like her dad, lives in Carpinteria. Mr. Nomura has three grandsons.
Mr. Nomura admitted his life gave him a big surprise.
“Never in my life did I imagine I would become a BMX racer,” he said. But he said he got involved with racing in 1979 because of a suggestion from local youths he met when he worked on a landscaping project.
They advised him to compete in a Father’s Day race that he ended up winning.
“The next thing you know, I was winning a championship on a bike I designed myself,” he said. “I spent five to six years in BMX racing, won a few national titles and turned professional at age 30. I was the oldest pro there.”
Along with his racing came broken bones: 22 of them, including his collarbone and shoulder blade.
But Mr. Nomura said getting injured didn’t deter him during his racing career. After healing and rehabilitation, he competed again.
The mayor’s lifetime of service grew when he joined the Rotary Club of Carpinteria Morning in 2002.
He said he’s proud of the club’s projects such as the Tomol Interactive Play Area at Carpinteria State Beach.
“It took eight years to build,” Mr. Nomura said, noting the Rotary project evolved into a community-wide one. “Because it’s an interpretative play area, we played off the history not only of Carpinteria but of subjects varying from the environment to Chumash themes. We wanted to highlight everything that had to do with Carpinteria back in the day, back to the beginning of time.”
“Creating Destiny” describes Mr. Nomura’s good work as a Rotarian around the world and in California, where he served as a district governor. (He and Roxanne also were presidents of the Carpinteria club.)
One of Rotary International’s projects was in India, which Mr. Nomura and Roxanne visited in 2010. They went there on a National Immunizations Day program, which delivers oral poliovirus vaccine under the direction of Rotary International and the World Health Organization.
“I could have written an entire book on this one trip,” Mr. Nomura, a polio survivor, wrote in his book.
In 2011, several interest groups approached Mr. Nomura about running for Carpinteria City Council. When he asked them why they supported him, they told him, “You carry high ethical standards. You’ve been the worker bee of the city for a long time and have volunteered for the community.”
Mr. Nomura agreed to run and was elected in 2012 to the council, which chose him for his first term as mayor in 2018. In 2020, the council re-appointed him for a second term.
“Creating Destiny” also explores Mr. Nomura’s personal life, including his kids’ accomplishments. And he talks about his grief after Roxanne’s death in 2017 following a battle with cancer. Mr. Nomura wrote he felt he had lost half of himself.
After Roxanne’s passage, friends and family took Mr. Nomura out to lunch and dinner every day. He learned later that Roxanne told people to promise her they would make sure he ate regular meals after she died.
“Creating Destiny” also covers Mr. Nomura meeting his second wife, Debbie.
“The biggest thing I talk about is that where you live is your paradise,” Mr. Nomura told the News-Press. “My grandfather taught me, ‘Whatever you do, you should make things better than they were before you got there.’ ”