It has been announced that the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 Citizen of the Year is Jerry Tanimoto. Jerry has been building relationships within the community through teaching and volunteering since he moved here in the 70s, and it’s no surprise that he’s being honored for all his hard work in Atascadero.

“I feel honored. I mean, I really do. It’s a great community. I love this community. I had no idea,” said Jerry.

In fact, Jerry added that he almost dropped his phone when Julie Matthews from the Chamber called to tell him that he had been chosen this year. 


Though Jerry grew up in the Central Valley, he was not a stranger to the Central Coast or Atascadero, but growing up, he would have never guessed that his life would bring him here or that he would end up in Atascadero long term. 

“As a kid, we used to drive through Atascadero. We’d go to Pismo Beach. My dad, my uncles, and everybody used to go clamming and also abalone hunting and fishing. And we used to stop by Atascadero and get gas before we went over. We lived in the valley, so it was an automatic thing. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was going to settle here, but then the job came up, and they needed somebody,” Jerry stated about starting his teaching job at Atascadero High School in 1976.

Originally, Jerry taught Social Science at AHS, but during his 31 years at the school, he also taught World History, US History, World Geography, Political Science, AP World History, and AP US History. He was also the Director of Activities and coached multiple sports teams. 

“It was a good career in the sense that I had some great kids. I had wonderful kids,” Jerry said of his students. “I just did my job, and I tried to help out any way I could. When an opening came up for coaching, and they needed somebody, I took it. When they needed somebody to be an advisor, I took it. They wanted somebody to work with the kids on a Saturday, I volunteered. When they said they needed somebody to teach drivers training, that’s what I did. That was my capacity. I felt that if somebody was in need, I could fill it, and other people couldn’t because they had families and so forth, and I didn’t. So I didn’t mind, so I got ingrained in this particular community.”

He wasn’t just a teacher in the classroom and a coach on the field; he went to games for sports that he wasn’t coaching to support the AHS students. He attended a ton of band concerts, choir performances, and plays. He also made a point of being a chaperone when one was needed for dances and other school functions. Jerry also covered AHS football games on the radio for 35 years.  

“I thought, you know, that’s part of being a teacher, being involved with the kids and supporting them,” Jerry said. “I just felt that was part of being an educator, not just in the classroom but outside the classroom.”

He added that he runs into a lot of his prior students around town when he’s out and about. When he travels around the country, he reaches out to his now-adult students to meet up when he’s in their new towns. He says investing in his former students’ lives was important to him, and his friendships with them now mean a lot.

“I don’t mind giving back to the community because the community has given me a great feeling of belonging and that kind of thing,” added Jerry.

But Jerry’s willingness to help didn’t and continues to not stop within the campus of AHS. He’s also made sure to be a part of every facet of the community around him. If there is a need, he is always willing to fill it, and he supports Atascadero’s local organizations in any way he can, whether it’s just showing up or being a part of their events. 

“I try to support as many different groups as I can if they are fundraising. I’ll attend it or whatever,” he added.

Not only was he Chairman of Colony Days for around five years, Jerry now puts together the announcers for the parade every year. You can also see him helping out at the Charles Paddock Zoo, Tamale Fest, Beer Fest, and Brew at the Zoo. He also supports the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Atascadero Kiwanis and Rotary charters. Jerry also makes it to all of El Camino Homeless Organization’s events and helps Barbie Butz with Coats for Kids. And for the last ten years, Jerry has also owned and operated Tanjerine Laundromat.

“If I have the time and I have the interest, I’ll do it,” said Jerry. “I enjoy it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I think the joy comes after you do it. You want to try to help out, and then it goes good, and you go, this was fun. I wanna do it again.”

Jerry has also been involved with local elections and was a precinct person for years, which is how he got involved with the Optimist Club. To date, he’s still a member of the Optimist Club, which provides scholarships to students graduating from AHS and Paloma Creek who are going into junior college or straight into trade school. Last year, the Optimist Club put on festival of trees in November and they sold 41 trees at the Pavillion on the Lake. Jerry said that has been a highlight of the past year and everyone had so much fun.

“That’s part of life, to give back to your community. As a member of the community and as an educator, giving back is what drives us,” stated Jerry.


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