La Palma recognizes employee, supervisor of the year

Courtesy photo Left to Right: Council Member Marshall Goodman, Kara Hart, Mayor Michele Steggell, Ivan San Pedro, Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Baker, and Council Member Nitesh Patel.

By Lauren Korduner

The City of La Palma awarded recognition for employee and supervisor/professional of the year at a regular meeting of the City Council earlier this month.
Kara Hart was named Employee of the Year. Ivan San Pedro was named Supervisor/Professional of the Year.

Awardees are nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of city officials and award winners from the previous year.
Council members presented Hart and San Pedro with certificates from the city and from Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office.

Employee of the Year

Kara Hart, civilian investigator in the city’s police department, was recognized as Employee of the Year.

Hart provides behind-the-scenes support to detectives in the field. She fulfills records requests from the district attorney’s office and keeps criminal registries up to date.
But perhaps her greatest task lies in maintaining the evidence room.

The police department updated records keeping practices in 2013 but the evidence room remained crowded. Hart likened the room to a stack of dishes that have been piling up in the sink.

“Maybe you can’t get to it right away. You pass by it. It bugs you.” Eventually, though, the dishes need to get done.

Hart applied for and received a grant to modernize the space. The police department used the funds to purchase a new walk-in freezer and rolling shelves.

Hart said the new shelving system freed up about 75 percent of the room.
And like emptying that sink full of dishes, “Once it’s done you feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Hart related that sense of accomplishment to the evidence room.

“It’s the satisfaction of knowing that everything’s cleaned up and easy to access, and that having done is so beneficial to the entire department.”

Now her task is to identify paper records and patrol videos to purge. This can only be done for cases that are fully adjudicated, meaning that the statute of limitations has run out and no appeals are pending.

Police Chief Terry Kim praised Hart for her outstanding work ethic and for always promoting a sense of teamwork.

“I’m proud that she as a member of the police department was selected as the city’s employee of the year,” the chief said.

Supervisor/Professional of the Year

Ivan San Pedro, recreation coordinator, received the award for Supervisor/Professional of the Year. He oversees community classes, allocates facilities, and plans special events, such as La Palma’s signature Halloween Carnival.

“That’s my baby,” he said.

San Pedro has now shepherded the event through two seasons of Covid-19.
To accommodate for social distancing requirements, in 2020, Halloween became a drive-thru.

But as Covid-19 restrictions eased last year, San Pedro saw the opportunity to relocate the annual fall festival. Thus, the Halloween Carnival in Central Park was born. The event included carnival-style games, treats and giveaways. He found the enthusiastic reaction from the community rewarding.

San Pedro is a member of a professional organization for parks and recreation leaders. Chad Clanton, parks and recreation director for the City of Tustin, is his mentor.

“I was impressed with Ivan from the get-go.”

Clanton said he was proud but not surprised that his mentee received recognition from the City of La Palma.

“He’s got the energy and enthusiasm that will serve him well in whatever direction he chooses to take.”

San Pedro calls himself a creative person who loves to collaborate with his colleagues but says he can be his harshest critic.

He said he’s humbled by the recognition he’s received from the city. He calls the award “confirming” and “a really great way to recognize for myself, too, that I’m doing a good job and that, being here, they value my work.”

Other business from the Feb. 1 meeting
The city council:
-Approved Janet Conklin, Noella Lew and Sally Alvis to serve on the beautification committee. Lew and Alvis were reappointments. The three terms expire Dec. 31, 2026. Two vacancies remain on the seven-member committee.

-Empowered the city to apply for a CalRecycle grant to begin compliance with SB 1383, legislation passed to curb greenhouse gas emissions arising from organic food waste.
Affirmed the city has funds available to qualify for a federal matching grant for transportation projects.

All items listed on the consent calendar were passed 4-0. Council member Mark Waldman was absent.