Pacific Palisades resident Haldis Toppel was nominated for “Pioneer Woman of the Year” by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl for her role in shaping the Pacific Palisades community and her work as a public servant for the City of Los Angeles.
“I was absolutely shocked, speechless, and elated,” said Toppel. “I felt a lot of humility especially when I read about the other (Pioneer) awards from last year. These are wonderful women who have done a lot for our community to encourage other women to participate.”
- Photo: Rich Schmitt/Palisadian-Post
Toppel was born in 1942 and raised in post-World War II Germany. At age 10, she was selected by the German/Norwegian Red Cross as one of the junior goodwill ambassadors to live with a Norwegian Family for the summer.
This endeavor aimed to help mend relationships between the two countries and became a defining experience in her early life, which set the stage for volunteer service in later years.
“The family really embraced me and the efforts of the Red Cross to bring friendship among two countries that had been at war previously — it just made such an impression on me,” said Toppel, who still visits her Red Cross family. “I took that into my future and I never forgot about the experience.”
In her professional life, Toppel’s career soared to new heights. Toppel first became a flight attendant for Continental Airlines and then a commercial pilot and flight instructor.
Toppel also flew several all-women Transcontinental Air Races, as well as flew a Twin Comanche from Los Angeles to Europe and back as one the few women in those days to cross the Atlantic in both directions.
As a mother in the Palisades, Toppel was a key figure in the coordination between the Palisades Community, the Department of Transportation, and Loyola High School to rerout an Express Bus that would provide public transportation to Loyola and other private and public schools along the way.
Toppel also spent nearly twenty years with the City’s ITA and headed the personal computer laboratory, introduced PC equipment, and trained all City Departments. Toppel also developed the police department’s initial Gangs Tracking System as well as the prototype of the mobile laptops in LAPD Patrol vehicles.
Toppel’s passion for public service didn’t stop at City Hall. Toppel was also a former president of the Marquez Knolls Property Owners Association, a former Vice President of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, a member of the Pacific Palisades Park Advisory Board, and a member of the LAPD West Los Angeles Community Police Advisory Board.
“Haldis Toppel is a remarkable woman with a remarkable history of dedicating herself to her community,” said Rosendahl. “Haldis has shown this as a public servant with the City of Los Angeles and as a volunteer for the Pacific Palisades community. Haldis is always about engaging with people, using her personal warmth and intelligence to shine light on a path to resolving technical as well as challenging interpersonal roadblocks. She breaks through barriers just like she soars when piloting an aircraft high above.”
Toppel is the nominee from the 11th district and will be joined by 18 other women, one from each council district plus four women that are nominated by the City’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Rosendahl will honor Toppel this Friday at a special breakfast in the Tom Bradley Tower at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, followed by a ceremony in council chambers.