Five Pacific Palisades residents were honored as Golden Sparkplugs at the Community Council awards celebration on December 9 at the Bel-Air Bay Club. (See adjoining story about Citizen of the Year Chris Spitz.)
Scott Cullen, Rick McGeagh, Matthew Rodman, Ingrid Steinberg and Krishna Thangavelu received the 2021 award for “igniting ideas and projects into community action” that benefits the Palisades.
SCOTT CULLEN quipped, “I grew up in Pacific Palisades — and becoming a Sparkplug, it’s all I’ve ever dreamed about.”
He has single-handedly transformed the median on Bowdoin between Radcliffe and Temescal Canyon Road into a lovely, landscaped spot the past three years.
His project started when he had an African lily and no place to plant it at his home on Iliff. He wondered if it would grow in the abandoned median that had cement-like dirt and was devoid of all plants, even weeds.
Cullen was advised to get oak leaves to amend the soil, which he did from Rustic Canyon. As the soil became rehabilitated, he went to construction sites that were throwing plants in the dumpster and rescued them and planted them in the median. He mulched and watered regularly (nearby homeowners Shirley and George Coleman allowed him to fill jugs so he could hand-water the plants until they were established). He continues to care and oversee the median.
RICK MCGEAGH, who lives near Will Rogers State Park, explained that “I remember when we had to be evacuated for the Getty Fire  and I felt I had to do something to clear the sides of the roads.” Years of accumulated brush posed a fire hazard for the people who lived off Will Rogers State Park Road. The area along Sunset between Will Rogers Road and Gate House Road had not been cleared in decades.
McGeagh spent numerous weekends during the Covid epidemic cleaning up the brush and trash. He also led a campaign and was successful in getting state and local officials to participate in a brush cleanup.
He has been on the board of the Pacific Palisades Baseball Association, the Community Council, the Park Advisory Board and Corpus Christi’s Pastor’s Advisory Council. Since 1991, he has run St. Monica’s Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless.
“Thank you for this affirmation,” he said. “I really appreciate it.”
MATTHEW RODMAN was recognized for his service as president of the Palisades Americanism Parade Association (PAPA), a volunteer position he has held since 2018. Before that he spent years assisting PAPA President Daphne Gronich (Citizen of the Year 2016).
During the pandemic when all major events were cancelled, Rodman arranged for a Fourth of July flyover by a squadron of World War II planes. This past year, he secured permits in order to allow a parade with the theme “The Sparkle Returns.”
Rodman has brought the Will Rogers 5/10K race, the parade, the concert and the fireworks under one umbrella to provide a seamless Fourth of July celebration in Pacific Palisades.
“Thank you for the kind acknowledgement,” he said. “I grew up watching the parade as a child. The work I do to bring about these festivities would not be possible without a team.”
He singled out race organizers Brian Shea and Thomas Hathway, the American Legion for its financial support, concert organizers Rob Weber and Keith Turner and fireworks head Rich Wilken. “I want to thank my teammates for making the Fourth of July the best day in the Palisades,” said Rodman, who received a Sparkplug in 2017 for his leadership role bringing about a successful bus/traffic solution at Paul Revere Middle School.
INGRID STEINBERG was honored for establishing and co-founding the town’s first environmentally focused non-profit, Resilient Palisades. Founded in 2020, the group had a goal of uniting residents, local businesses, schools and other organizations to create a safer and healthier community. They formed four teams that are addressing Clean Air and Water, Zero Waste, Green Energy Resilience, and Plant-based Solutions.
Steinberg spearheaded or assisted on: the green garden campaign, which would reduce and eliminate gas-powered blowers; the “Cut-Out-the-Cutlery” campaign, which has reduced takeout plastic from local eateries, unless a person asks for the utensils; and the Pali Microgrid, which aims to work with residents to add solar to homes.
“With a couple of friends, we launched last fall,” Steinberg said. “We wanted to provide an organizational structure to the community. I want to invite everyone to go to our website and sign up.”
KRISHNA THANGAVELU earned Sparkplug status by organizing grassroots opposition to a proposed plan to build a homeless shelter at Will Rogers State Beach. She started the Facebook group “Protecting Parks and Beaches” and then helped with the formation of the nonprofit “Beaches and Parks 4 All.” She continues to aid the community by bringing together multiple organizations and residents from Council District 11 to ensure that voices are heard by City and County representatives.
“I was the youngest of six,” Thangavelu said. “My dad would be so proud.”
She called herself an “accidental activist” and described how she had gone from the “peanut gallery” listening to Community Council meetings to “joining the leaders.”
Thankgavelu said that in questioning public officials and holding them accountable, she is “often willing to be unpopular.” She has found that the biggest obstacle facing residents and their particular visions is “there is no collaboration” and concluded, “Please, this year going forward and into 2022, we have to get the right people elected. No one gets to sit this one out.”