Playa del Rey resident Valeria Velasco, a longtime local civic leader who serves as vice president of the city Board of Airport Commissioners, has been honored as a “Pioneer Woman of the Year” for Los Angeles City Council District 11.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl recognized Velasco, the former president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC), as his district honoree at a special City Council ceremony July 22. Velasco was one of 18 “pioneer women” honored, as each member of the City Council selects an honoree from their district and the city’s Commission on the Status of Women chooses four more.

“Val is a truly amazing individual,” Rosendahl said. “She is a dedicated champion of her community and a strong voice for our neighborhoods.

“She is smart, determined, passionate and effective. She is a role model for people in public service.”

Velasco said she was humbled and honored to be chosen as a “Pioneer Woman of the Year.”

“In my lifetime, there have been tremendous strides in achieving equality for women in many areas, especially in choosing life paths and careers,” she said. “I am grateful to the women who blazed that path for all of us, giving me the opportunity to build upon their achievements and give back through community service.”

A Los Angeles native, Velasco began her career in 1976 as a bilingual elementary school educator, teaching for five years for 5th and 7th graders. She later earned a law degree and became a member of the California Bar in 1986.

Velasco has served as a Los Angeles planning commissioner, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, staff legal counsel and Hispanic liaison to former City Councilman Michael Woo, as well as Assembly aide/Hispanic liaison to former Assembly Speaker Mike Roos.

In the 1990s, she co-founded and served as president of ARSAC, a Westchester and Playa del Rey based group that promotes regional aviation, and fought what they believed were ill-conceived plans for massive expansion of Los Angeles International Airport. In 2005, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Velasco to the Airport Commission, where she continues to serve as vice president.

In addition, Velasco has been a member of the Rotary Club of Westchester since 1993, serving as president from 2006-07, and is currently serving in a leadership position as executive aide (chief of staff) to the Rotary District 5280. She is also chair of the Los Angeles Chamber, World Trade Committee.