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Donlevys are 2016 Citizens of the Year

Express editor

If one were to simply list all of John and Kathy Donlevy’s volunteer activities in Winters, there’d be no room in the Express for anything else, and that’s certainly why they‘ve been chosen as the 2016 Citizens of the Year.
From AYSO soccer to the Volunteer Firefighter Department to Youth Day to Rotary Club, the Donlevys have given freely of their time, and neither has a lot to spare. However, they’ve made it a priority to find time to give to the community they love.
As Winters city manager, John Donlevy is surely no stranger to anyone in the community. Scarcely a week goes by that his name doesn’t appear in the Express, as he oversees and operates City Hall and its staff, a job he likens to being the “CEO of the city.” That would be enough to keep him busy, but he’s still found time to serve 15 years on the board of directors for the Rotary Club of Winters, including one year as president and seven as chair for the club’s International Services Committee, three for the Scholarship Committee, and three for the Community Services Committee.
Kathy has also put in years on various local boards of directors, including eight with the Youth Day Committee and nine on Winters AYSO. She has additionally coordinated the Youth Day Kids Fair for eight years, and served as a Girl Scout leader.
Together, they’ve volunteered with Winters FFA, the annual Gold Beach retreat for Winters High School football players, the annual Relay for Life effort and the Winters Education Foundation. John even spent 12 years playing Ulysses S. Grant at Woody Fridae’s annual fifth grade Civil War reenactment program on Angel Island, and has also coached AYSO soccer from 2002 on, both in Winters and beyond.
Toys For Tots, the annual Fish Fry, Putah Creek Council planting and educational activities, Little League, the annual Carnitas Cookoff — put a check by the Donlevys’ names because they helped out there too.
The couple arrived with their children in 2001 — the day after they arrived was 9/11. While the country was paralyzed with shock and fear, the Donlevys spent those precarious days getting to know people in the community, including Don and Diane Jordan, who Kathy says invited them to get involved with the Youth Day Committee.
“They were looking for new blood to get involved, and we were happy to be the new blood. We benefitted from other people asking us to get involved,” she says, adding that having children made it easy to find things they liked to do. “We enrolled the kids in AYSO right off the bat.”
It wasn’t long before someone said, “We need coaches… we want someone on the board… we need someone to referee…” and their answer was always “yes.”
Both Kathy and John manage to say “yes” despite very busy schedules. While John runs the city, Kathy works as a neonatal care nurse on the night shift at Mercy San Juan Hospital and commutes to Carmichael every day. But, they don’t let their schedules or obligations get in the way of volunteering. In a way, says John, volunteering is their hobby.
“Some people fly model airplanes as a hobby — we get involved in the community.”
Right from the start, John says he realized there was something special about Winters, when he saw the beautiful wooden play structure at City Park, with the plaque that said “built by volunteers.“ Both come from the Los Angeles area, and Winters was a welcome change.
“We saw stuff we’d never seen before — there are things that happen here that don’t happen anywhere else,” he says, recalling the many people he met from Rotary Club to the Winters Friends of the Library who were all so dedicated to making their community a better place to live. Those people inspired them to get involved, and still inspire them now.
“There are people doing their best and we’ve always wanted to just step in and do our part,” he says. ‘We found a lot of kindred spirits. There’s a lot of passionate people in Winters. It’s very inspiring.”
Kathy says that as a parent, she was immediately drawn to Winters.
“We wanted to raise our kids somewhere nicer than LA,” she says. “It all goes back to them.”
John says Winters offered the opportunity to provide important life lessons to their children.
“Community service is really important to us. With our kids, we wanted to set a good example for them.”
He says they sought out activities they could do along with their children while benefitting others at the same time.
“And the kids, they got dragged to everything too,” Kathy says with a chuckle, noting, however, that whenever they were asked to help out, both pitched right in.
“They never thought twice,” says Kathy.
“I’m really proud of both of our kids,” says John.
Their children are grown and in college now. Sam, 22, is studying to be a public administrator like his dad, while Emily, 20, is a Brownie troop co-leader and helps coordinate the annual Relay For Life event. With both kids following their own paths, it would be easy to hang up their volunteer hats, but the Donlevys intend to keep right on going.
“We won’t change in 20 years,” says Kathy. “We’ll be older, but we’ll still be doing this.”
John says their many activities flow from one to the next, like changing seasons — from soccer to Rotary Club to Youth Day to volunteer firefighter activities and back again, and they take it all in stride because others came before them who inspired them to serve their community.
“It’s what makes Winters ‘Winters,’” he says. “You see people who are really committed, and the difference that one or two people can make in any event is massive. We’ve always wanted to help those very people.”
The end result of all that dedication, he says is simply that “Winters is fun,” and to help keep it that way, “we’d sign up every day.”
Besides the “big ticket activities, the Donlevys also help out in far less visible ways, like helping to clear storm drains, playing “loteria” games with children while their parents attend a Youth Day meeting or cooking dinner for weary firefighters in the midst of back to back summer fires. John says they made dinner for the firefighters one time before the Monticello Fire erupted and “they were the happiest people we’ve ever seen.”
“Little instances of showing gratitude to folks gives you a chance to say ‘thank you,’ and you’re able to be part of these events when the community comes together,” he says. “It’s a lot of those little things that make a big difference.”
As for showing gratitude for those who do so much, that’s really what being honored as Citizens of the Year is really all about. Despite the fact that the Donlevys have been volunteering non-stop since they arrived, Kathy says it caught them by surprise.
“It’s completely surreal,” she says. “It just completely blew us away. We don’t do things to be recognized, we just do things because that’s the way we live.”
In fact, she adds that before this moment, she always viewed the Citizen of the Year honor as something that was for “other people.”
As for John, he notes with a smile that the last thing he needs is more attention.
“I don’t need my name in the newspaper anymore.”
That said, he says being named Citizens of the Year is amongst the greatest honors they’ve ever received, largely because it puts them in company with other Citizens of the Year who are local icons, like Robert Chapman, John and Bobbie Greenwood, and Charley Wallace.
They’re totally ‘all in’ for Winters,” he says. “Winters is their life.”
Both agree that this experience isn’t something they’d have had if they’d remained in the Los Angeles area.
“We feel blessed to be here,” says John. “People long for something better, and we’ve found what’s better. I don’t think there’s anything better than Winters.”
The Donlevys will be formally honored as the 2016 Citizens of the Year at the Winters Chamber of Commerce’s annual Year in Review celebration, which takes place on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m. at Park Winters. Tickets are limited and are $85 per person. For tickets or more information, contact Chamber Executive Director Carrie Green, (530) 795-2329 or [email protected]




Turkovich gets Theodore Winters Award

Staff writer
“Wow! I’m in good company,” Chris Turkovich said when he heard who the other Winters Chamber of Commerce awardees are for 2016. “Gino Mediati and John Donlevy were both personally helpful when we wanted to open up a business in downtown Winters.
“It’s really humbling to get this award. I’ve only been back in town for about 10 years. I was fortunate to come back to Winters when I did.”
The Theodore Winters Award is given to someone who has made a significant contribution to the betterment of the Winters community, but over a shorter period of time than the Citizen of the Year, and generally in one or two activities.
Turkovich exemplifies those qualities, according to the Chamber, which cites his work in many areas to promote and market Winters. He has been involved in the concept of Winters as the gateway to the Highway 128 corridor that leads to Napa, and now the Snow Mountain National Monument. Although the monument effort was not a part of the Highway 128 public relations effort, it fit seamlessly into the promotion.
He has been part of the effort to beautify the approach to Winters. His downtown business interests led directly to his being involved with the city’s parking committee to solve issues of public parking for the downtown businesses. He and Sandy Vickery brought a parking consultant to the table to work on solving the problem.
More recently he has been part of the Discover Winters publicity effort that is working on putting billboards in place on the major highways that surround Winters. The first one is on Interstate 505, near Williams, to persuade travelers to stop and explore Winters. Others are planned for the north and south I-80 corridors, when space becomes available.
Turkovich Family Wines additionally has been part of fundraisers for local charities such as the Yolo Food Bank and 3R Rescue.
Although Turkovich grew up in his farming family, he says that growing up on the ranch rather than in the town was a completely different experience.
After graduating from Cal Poly in 2006, he came home for a while and worked at R.H. Phillips winery. In 2007, he went to Chile and worked the harvest at Veramonte Winery. Home again, he laid the groundwork for starting the Turkovich Family Wines in Winters. In 2009, Turkovich worked wine harvests in Australia (Chapel Hill Winery) and New Zealand (Kim Crawford Winery), and spent the other half of the year getting the Winters vineyards in shape.
He returned permanently to Winters in 2010. It was only when he needed a place to make his wines that he become aware of all the potentials, problems, pitfalls and promises of starting a business in a small town. This is a topic he has given a lot of thought to.
“Most employment is done by small businesses,” says Turkovich. That idea has certain ramifications. He argued against putting ordinances on home businesses, because he says that is often how small businesses start — an idea in the home, or garage, and then it grows.
He says there isn’t much cheap, commercial space in Winters. He didn’t intend to start his winery in the back of Rootstock, but that was the space that was available. There is quite a lot of space on the second floor of the buildings on downtown Main Street, but making them suitable for occupation is extremely expensive. Similarly, the commercial building on Road 89 has space, but it would not be cheap to convert to usable space for a specific kind of business.
“We could use commercial space that could be a stepping stone between a business in a garage and a factory.”
Turkovich also believes that finding more small businesses that can thrive in Winters is important in maintaining the community feeling, so people do not have to go out of town for work. He maintains he does not have a Grand Master Vision. He would like Winters to stay a relatively small, community-based agricultural town.
“Maybe we could have a few new houses every 15 to 20 years,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
Turkovich credits his business success with the fact that Winters has historically had good city councils and active citizens who care about how the city develops.
“We’ve had responsible financial management, reasonable planning commissioners, and forward-looking city councils that have kept Winters going in a positive trajectory,” he stated. “It has taken a lot of people to do this over a long period of time. “
He credits Corinne Martinez and Lynda Hinds for starting “Roots to Wine,” which publicizes local products, and tries to emulate this effort in his own marketing projects.
“We need to publicize all of Winters, not just individual businesses.”
Turkovich is looking forward to the next phase.
“It will be interesting to see how the downtown hotel project and the PG&E business affect the business atmosphere of the town. Every little bit we do now can make it easier for the next person to bring business to Winters.”
Turkovich will be formally honored as the 2016 Theodore Winters Award winner at the Winters Chamber of Commerce’s annual Year in Review/Toast to Winters celebration, which takes place on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m. at Park Winters. Tickets are limited and are $85 per person. For tickets or more information, contact Chamber Executive Director Carrie Green, (530) 795-2329 or [email protected]