Citizens of the Year, Golden Sparkplugs and the Pride of the Palisades

A time-honored Palisadian tradition, each year the Pacific Palisades Community Council doles out awards to community members who have contributed to the Palisades. 2018 is no exception: These five individuals will be given awards at this year’s sold-out Holiday Dinner & Awards Gala on Thursday, Dec. 13, at Gladstones.

Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Pride of the Palisades: Arnie Wishnick


Pacific Palisades is home to many beloved icons and fierce supporters of the community—but the name Arnie Wishnick rings a special bell. 

The last four decades have seen Wishnick, a Chicago native who settled in our humble neighborhood in 1978, participate in numerous organizations such as the Optimists Club, Village Green Committee, Teen Contest Committee, Palisades PRIDE and Palisades Americanism Parade Association. 

He served as vice president of two former Pacific Palisades savings and loan associations. For 12 years he reviewed movies for the Palisadian-Post (and continued after that to contribute his Oscar picks, declaring in 2017 “the best storytelling is always a winner”).

He also indulged the Post by posing in a yoga position with Teresa Power in 2016—his first ever foray into yoga.

Having fulfilled the role of executive director of the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce for 25 years, Wishnick recently expanded his creative reach and co-produced the uproarious “Bark! The Musical” at Theatre Palisades. 

Over the years, Wishnick was the recipient of local accolades such as Sparkplug of the Year and Pacific Palisades Lions Club Citizen of the Year. 

He shared his life with Cathy Wishnick, a fellow activist, from 1968 until her passing in 2006. Wishnick retired in January, though remained a visibly friendly face at countless Palisadian events. 

This holiday season, the Pacific Palisades Community Council will award Wishnick with its Pride of the Palisades honors. 

“His knowledge of, enthusiasm for and commitment to the Palisades are second to none,” PPCC said in a statement referencing Wishnick, their esteemed honoree. 

“We are very proud to bestow this special recognition upon Arnie this year.” 

Jimmy Dunne

Co-Citizens of the Year: Jimmy Dunne & Bob Harter

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Jimmy Dunne and Bob Harter have been named Co-Citizens of the Year—a 71-year tradition.

“Their vision, inspired leadership and hard work in advocating for the Veterans’ Gardens at the Palisades Recreation Center for over four years has been nothing short of amazing,” PPCC wrote in a statement.

The two have been working together since early 2014 when Dunne, an “active supporter of all things Palisades for several years,” first brought the idea of renovating the Upper Picnic area to the Pacific Palisades Park Advisory Board.

After receiving a positive response—including from Harter, a board member and former Golden Sparkplug honoree—Dunne was asked to spearhead the creation of an inviting new park, complete with an updated picnic area and bocce ball courts.

Harter then partnered with Dunne, attending meetings and discussions with the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Park Advisory Board.

Bob Harter

“Working closely with American Legion Post 283, Jimmy and Bob secured the Post’s commitment to donate up to $400,000 as part of an $800,000 fund still growing,” PPCC stated.

Now known as Veterans’ Gardens, the project is slated to break ground soon, with an estimated date of completion scheduled for mid-2019.

“In the whole of it, I’m just so honored and I just feel so blessed to be part of the Palisades family,” Dunne, a 35-year resident of the Palisades, told the Post. “I think the beauty and the uniqueness of this community isn’t the homes or the ocean or the mountains; I think the beauty is in its people. That’s its heart and its strength for me.

“I just feel very honored and privileged to be involved in activities that celebrate this fantastic place.”

Golden Sparkplugs: Dede Vlietstra & John Steadman


Dede Vlietstra has been a Palisadian for 30 years. Constantly looking for new ways to contribute to her community, she has been a part of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness.

As part of the original team that cleaned up 30 camps that lined both sides of Temescal Canyon, she has remained active in overseeing that area and working with homeless individuals to get them the help they need, whether it be for mental health or housing.

Vlietstra said she joined the PPTFH after being impressed with its thorough and effective process. 

“I was very unaware of the number of encampments [in Pacific Palisades],” she said in an interview with the Palisadian-Post. “I was really surprised that we had so many people living in the hillsides, and I just thought it was great that people wanted to do something about it, but in a humane way and not just to get rid of them.”

In the past, Vlietstra spent five years with a prison ministry, volunteering her time to help prisoners at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles. She is also actively involved with the St. Matthew’s Church.

“Dede truly deserves the Golden Sparkplug honors for her service as guardian of the parkland and bluffs along Temescal Canyon Road,” said the Pacific Palisades Community Council announcement, as she stands to receive the award on Dec 13. 

John Steadman will receive a Golden Sparkplug Award for “his ongoing, reliable and commendable voluntary work to clean and maintain numerous public areas of the community,” according to the PPCC. Steadman is a 50-year resident and well known throughout the Via Mesa/Bluffs neighborhood as “the guy who is always outside working on his own and others’ gardens.”

Steadman regularly uses his own tools to clean areas of the neighborhood that need care, cleaning out trash and dead or overgrown shrubs, and stacks fallen palm fronds to be picked up by the city. 

He recently built a tool shed and installed a new sign on the Village Green while maintaining the park at the end of Via de las Olas. 

“John is indeed an angel of the extended Via Mesa/Bluffs community and a worthy
Golden Sparkplug honoree,” PPCC said.

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