For her long record of volunteerism, and efforts to make La Cañada Flintridge a household name in foreign nations, La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn. founder and president Vicki Schwartz has been named “La Cañadan of the Year.”
A selection committee of the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada recently named the self-described “semiretired” attorney and mother of two as the recipient of its 2018 award, a prestigious local honor that annually recognizes individuals who demonstrate leadership and a depth and breadth of service.
Chuck Terhune, who served on the committee alongside other past presidents of the club, reviewed this year’s crop of candidates and said Schwartz’s name floated to the top in light of her success in securing a cross-national sisterhood between La Cañada and Spanish town Villaneuva de La Cañada.
“She was very interested in getting into the sister city effort, and she did it,” he said. “She plowed through and got it going, and did it with a smile on her face — that took a lot of leadership.”
Schwartz grew up in Tempe, Ariz. and traveled as a high school exchange student to sister city Regensburg, Germany. The experience was memorable and inspired Schwartz, who’d forged lifelong friends abroad, to create similar opportunities for La Cañada students.
“If ever there was a city that is perfect for the Sister Cities International program, I think it’s La Cañada,” Schwartz told the council in January 2016.
Schwartz moved to town with husband Brad in 1988, one year before earning her juris doctorate from Loyola Law School. She later worked at a private firm and then represented Southern California Edison before “retiring” in 2002 to raise twins Jenna and Matthew.
She served as director for the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation from 2003 to 2006, chairing the group’s annual Spring Gala, and assisted on several PTA boards, the La Cañada High School Music Parents Assn. board and co-chaired the La Cañada High School 7/8 PTA Home Tour.
Schwartz participated in City of Hope’s Speaker’s Bureau series from 2005 to 2010 and served on the board for Pasadena-based Cancer Support Communities from 2015 to 2018.
After her children graduated from LCHS in 2014 — and with the 60th anniversary of Sister Cities International approaching — Schwartz began to focus her attention on finding La Cañada its own sister city.
She talked to then-mayor Dave Spence, who supported the idea, and other council members past and present. Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard also helped Schwartz hone in on La Cañada’s personality, a key part of the matching process, and local support grew.
Since 2016, the LCF Sister Cities Assn. has arranged multiple student visits and arranged several trips between city leaders and dignitaries from both cities.
“To be honest, it took off much more quickly than I thought it would, but it’s exceeded whatever I’d hoped for,” Schwartz said Tuesday, just back from a trip to Paris that doubled as a vacation and reconnaissance mission in another city interested in cultural exchange.
Considering herself a behind-the-scenes person, Schwartz said she was surprised to learn she’d been named “La Cañadan of the Year,” a title she associates with an elite group of individuals who both serve and lead the community.
“I feel honored to be among that group, because they’re so deserving and so worthwhile,” she said. “I’m very thankful.”