Citizen of the Year, Golden Sparkplugs and Pride of the Palisades Honored by Council

It was a festive, upbeat night on December 12, when five residents were honored for their important and impactful volunteer activities in Pacific Palisades.

A tradition since 1947, this was the first time the event was held at the Woman’s Club, which has been spruced up in recent years. Afterwards, one attendee told Circling the News, “This was such a great venue; we were all together in one room and you could see everyone, and the food was quite good.” A buffet Mexican dinner was provided by KaynDaves.

Organized by the Pacific Palisades Community Council, the event drew leaders from all corners of town as well as government officials and their representatives (including Janet Turner, a former PPCC president who now works for Congressman Ted Lieu). The officials included City Attorney Mike Feuer and Assemblymember Richard Bloom. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mike Bonin, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Senator Ben Allen sent staffers.


Chris Spitz recognizes George Wolfberg as Pride of the Palisades.

George Wolfberg, the current Community Council president, was honored by numerous people and organizations for his more than four decades of active leadership in all corners of Pacific Palisades. He was the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association president for many years and chair of the Potrero Canyon Citizens Committee. He worked for the No Oil! campaign and defended the historic eucalyptus grove in Rustic Canyon. He serves on the Pacific Coast Highway task force and for years has been a mentor and leader for AYSO Region 69 referees. He was Citizen of the Year in 2011.

Feuer, who has known Wolfberg for over 20 years in their government roles, noted that his friend “is a particularly special person among a group of special people” here in the Palisades.

Wolfberg’s achievements were entered into the U.S. Congressional Record on December 5, by Representative Ted Lieu, who concluded in his statement: “George’s impact in Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades is remarkable and inspiring. I want to thank and recognize George for his efforts to improve his community and outstanding leadership throughout his career.”

Acting PPCC President David Card added, “George has been a great mentor and collaborator for many of us in the community.”


The Golden Sparkplug Award honors those citizens who ignite ideas and projects into community action that benefit Palisadians throughout the community.


Bob Benton (left) describes the reasons that Don Comacho was awarded a Golden Sparkplug.

Don Camacho led a $275,000 fundraising campaign to install five solar-powered scoreboards on the Field of Dreams at the Palisades Recreation Center. He was introduced by Bob Benton, president of the Pacific Palisades Baseball Association, praised Camacho’s efforts not only to raise the money, but to guide the project though a maze of government agencies.

Accepting the award, Camacho said “I thank my baseball wife Anne, my children Owen and Abagail and my PPBA family.”


David Kaplan (left) presented the award to Lisa Glantz while PPCC Vice Chair David Card observes.

When the Chamber of Commerce discontinued its Holiday Ho!Ho!Ho! last year, Lisa Glantz stepped into action and spearheaded an effort that kept the tradition alive. With only two weeks of planning, the event was a success. She stepped up again this year to continue this community gathering and to expand it, thanks to help of more than 100 volunteers.

On December 15, she once again organized appearances by Santa & Mrs. Claus and “Mayors” Billy & Janice Crystal, a bake sale, a toy donation drive, face painting, cookie decorating, live music and performances by students from Fancy Feet and Gerry Blanck–all at Simon Meadow on the Palisades-Malibu YMCA Christmas tree lot.


Mike Lanning had the audience in stitches with his remarks.

Mike Lanning was chosen for his leadership  bringing girls into Scouting in the Palisades this past year. The esteemed Scoutmaster of the renowned Troop 223 for more than 60 years, Lanning was also honored last July as the 2019 parade marshal.

Lanning, 87, asked people in the audience to raise their hands if they were involved or are still involved in Scouting. About a third of the people raised their hands. “This is not only about me, but about all the people involved,” said Lanning, who saluted Larry Kirven for leading the 30 girls in the Troop, six of whom are on their way to earning Eagle Scout status in 2021.

Lanning, in describing the Scouting program, explained how the boys and girls were expected to lead and to help the Scouts under them. “Wouldn’t we create better mothers and fathers if all kids had that opportunity?” he asked.

Lanning thanked the PPCC for the award, then quipped, “At my age, this Sparkplug is just what I need.”


The evening concluded when PPCC Vice Chair David Card introduced the 2019 Citizen of the Year. This award “honors those whose contributions to Pacific Palisades have been both a recent effort resulting in a substantial benefit to the community, and a steady, reliable long-term history of service to the Palisades.”

Kevin Niles, the Ronald Reagan Post 283 American Legion adjutant (in charge of the Legion’s administrative work), was cited for his outstanding service with two Legion youth programs – the Oratorical Scholarship Program and Boys State.

Niles is also the long-time Cubmaster for Pack 223 (165 boys, grades K-5) and has been associated with Troop 223 for many years.

He’s currently president of the Palisades Rotary Club and has volunteered for many years with PAPA (the Palisades Americanism Parade Association), which organizes the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show. Niles and his wife Nancy, the current Woman’s Club president, rode as parade marshals in 2017.

Card said, “I’ve worked with Kevin at Rotary and the Legion. He’s an amazing leader and an amazing friend.”

Ever modest, Niles said: “I feel that my efforts are not as great as so many others in this room.” Then, after thanking his friends, family and God, he concluded: “I hope you have a great night. I’m not that long-winded,” which was met with enthusiastic response from the nearly 150 people in the audience.



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