Although delayed due to COVID, John Rodriguez has officially been named Winters’ 2020 Citizen of the Year. After decades of dedication to the town, Rodriguez reflects on his efforts that won him the designation.
Since actions speak louder than words, Rodriguez’s resume of service to the town screams Citizen of the Year. He’s been an integral part of Winters Little League since 2001, coordinating umpires, organizing and emceeing annual crab feed fund raisers, coordinating the firework booth fundraisers and assisted with the Little League Park restoration in 2007.
If that wasn’t enough, Rodriguez has also served as the local Lions Club president since 2006, raised thousands of dollars for the community, owned and operated the Scoop for a handful of years — providing first jobs for numerous Winters Warriors — and served on the board of the Winters Healthcare Foundation.
For Rodriguez, however, his selfless nature was nurtured as a kid, watching his parents give their time and effort at the Little League field. Suffice it to say, they left one heck of an imprint.
“Even before I could play in Little League, I was at the park every night. I remember my dad umping and my mom at the concessions. That’s just how things work in a small town. If we don’t have money we give our time,” Rodriguez said explaining how he got involved with Little League later in life. “I graduated from St. Mary’s College and Johnny Lopez told me he wasn’t turning the league over to just anyone, so he handed the treasurer position over to me. I’m proud that, since then, we’ve had no shortage of volunteers and a good network of local kids to umpire. And that’s not just because of me, there’s a lot of good people involved.”
One year when preparing for the crab feed, they needed someone to make cocktail sauce. Rodriguez’s mom told him to go ask Juanita Ramos to make it, and, on that journey, he was roped into the Lions Club.
“Juanita said she’d do it if I did something for her in return. She said to come down for a Lions Club meeting at Tomat’s and have dinner,” Rodriguez explained. “I got there and there was a ton of older people I knew. We ate dinner, then Juanita got up and said, ‘Tonight, we’re nominating a new president, and we nominate John Rodriguez.’”
After being volun-told, Rodriguez accepted his role as the Lions Club president and has served since 2006. Years passed, and Rodriguez continued to do what his parents did before him — which was to make Winters the “best darn, little town around.”
This past May, Rodriguez and his family received the devastating news that he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Although frightening, the news has done nothing to dampen this Winters Warrior’s resolve or zeal for life.
“The silver lining in this and my dad dying young: every day I wake up and I know it’s a gift. This reaffirmed that and made me see the value in community and being involved. Luckily, I’ve been able to stay involved with texts, check-writing and doing behind the scenes stuff during COVID,” Rodriguez said.
He shared how his service to the town over the years paid off in dividends.
“The first six months were tough mentally,” said Rodriguez. “But, if I wasn’t as involved as I was, I wouldn’t have had that support group to get me through this.”
With no plans on slowing down on his responsibilities, this citizen of the year will continue to embody the selflessness, resolve and gritty work ethic Winters is all about.