A quick glance around the office at John Kautz Farms in Lodi tells the story of a woman who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of others. Plaques and framed certificates highlighting the accomplishments of Gail Kautz along with photos of her alongside various well-known politicians hang on the walls.
Since marrying John Kautz in 1958, Gail Kautz has worked in the family farming business and has served on many boards and commissions in the area. She has become so involved because she finds it enjoyable, especially in areas geared toward agriculture, she said.
“I always tell people I was a country girl accidentally born in the city. I enjoy the opportunity to return some of the good,” Kautz said.
Born and raised in Oakland, Kautz earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of the Pacific, formerly the College of the Pacific. While raising her children, Kautz was active in many of their activities including Boy Scouts, FFA and 4-H. She also served in some nonprofit organizations such as Omega Nu and the Children’s Home of Stockton.
From 1994 to 2006, Kautz served on the Board of Regents for the University of the Pacific. While on the board, she was the chairwoman of the Academic Review Special Committee. She found it both challenging because it was during a time of transition for the college, as well as rewarding because for her it was like coming home again, she said.
Kautz served as a board member of the California State Fair and Exposition from 1987 to 1995 and was also the first woman chair. After being appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California State Parks and Recreation board, Kautz served as a member for eight years. In 2009, she was elected as the commission’s vice president. Many of the board’s meetings were held in parks, which Kautz said was a great experience.
“I love the outdoors and the parks. You can’t have a nicer place to meet than that,” she said.
Other organizations she has served in include the “Improving Life Through Service Commission,” and the California Women for Agriculture. She has also served as vice chairman of Ironstone Vineyards and has been involved in all aspects of the Kautz farming operation.
Kautz has served as president of the California 4-H Foundation, where her role has included reaching out to others for donations. She decided to broaden her search for funding and founded the Ironstone Concours Foundation, where she has served as chairman for 20 years.
The foundation annually hosts the Ironstone Concours d’Elegance classic car show, which has become one of the top 10 classic car shows in the nation. Since its beginning, the show has grown to include 400 cars and has raised over $1 million in funds for local 4-H and FFA groups as well as scholarships.
Wayne Craig, who serves on the foundation’s board, feels Kautz’ greatest quality is her willingness to help others.
“She loves people and helping people comes out no matter what she does. She’s extremely genteel and motivates people to be their best,” he said.
The benefits of holding the car show don’t stop at the money aspect of it for Kautz. Since it’s beginning she has enjoyed learning the history of all the cars.
“It’s very educational for me. I’ve learned some fascinating things about cars,” she said.
Although Kautz jokes that she’s busy 25 hours a day, she still finds time to enjoy other activities. When she’s not working in the business or on a project, she spends her time gardening, traveling, meeting people and cheering on her granddaughter at horse shows. Kautz also enjoys horses and hopes to get back into riding again.
“It’s in my blood. I’m very fortunate to have some great horses,” she said. “I can be tired and grumpy and I go into my horse barn and I can just be with them.”