Randy Redwitz ambles up to the table in a conference room on the 17th floor of a high-rise building in Irvine and takes a seat, a majestic view of Saddleback Mountain framing him on a clear fall afternoon.
He’s wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and a large silver belt buckle – a look that says, “I just came straight from my ranch.”
It is, however, Halloween – and the usually button-up Redwitz, founder and chief executive of one of Orange County’s most respected accounting, tax and financial consulting firms, is gamely playing along.
“I’m usually not a dress-up person on Halloween,” he said with a laugh. “But I tried to be a little bit of a cowboy today.”
If life were a Western and the scene were a pack of cowboys snaking down a trail on horseback, Redwitz wouldn’t be at the front. He’d be one of those loyal deputies in the back, a guy you may not know or recognize but who, nevertheless, would play a critical role in the success of the group.
For nearly four decades, Redwitz has been a major supporter of the Diocese of Orange, donating his accounting talents to various initiatives – from the financial management and development of Santa Margarita Catholic High School, to financial systems and audits of parishes and schools within the Diocese, to the financial oversight of the restoration of the former Crystal Cathedral to the Christ Catholic Cathedral campus and with his financial resources to a variety of capital campaigns within the Diocese of Orange, from Santa Margarita Catholic High School to St. Edward the Confessor to St. Serra and to the Christ Cathedral.
But corralling Redwitz to talk about his long support of the Diocese isn’t easy. He’d rather stay behind the scenes – or, on this day, hidden in plain sight in his rancher get-up.
“I don’t like the attention at all,” he said.
But Redwitz deserves it.
“I often say that Randy is the most important person in the history of the school that no one knows,” said J. Andrew Sulick, president of Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
Added Christ Cathedral Rector Emeritus Fr. Christopher Smith: “Randy’s done a lot of things people don’t realize.”
A LIFE-CHANGING SUMMER
There’s a story behind Redwitz’s longstanding passion for serving the Diocese of Orange – as well as his parish of 49 years, St. Edward the Confessor in Dana Point.
Back in 1968, he was a 21-year-old first-year theology student at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. Redwitz had just earned a BA degree in philosophy and a minor in English at St. John’s Seminary College, and he was beginning the first of four years of studies that would culminate in his ordination to the priesthood.
RANDY REDWITZ IS PICTURED IN HIS IRVINE OFFICE ON NOV. 17. PHOTO BY DREW KELLEY/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
But during the summer after he earned his undergraduate degree, his life changed.
Redwitz had started a youth program at the parish he attended, St. Catherine of Siena in Laguna Beach.
“I thought I needed to do something for church that summer,” recalled Redwitz, who grew up in Three Arch Bay in South Laguna, the son of a mechanical engineer father and an accountant mother, the latter a devout Catholic.
“Part of the activities of our youth group was to sing at Mass,” Redwitz explained.
“The problem was, we had the kids but no one who could play an instrument.”
A parent told Redwitz there was a young woman named Claudia Gillespie who could play the piano and organ.
“Let’s see if we can entice her to come,” Redwitz recalled telling the parent.
She did, and Claudia and Randy clicked.
That fall, at St. John’s, like all seminarians buried in studies, Redwitz looked forward to getting mail.
All the young men would gather around praying a letter would arrive for them – just like it is for those in the military.
“Claudia would write perfume-scented letters to me,” Redwitz recalled. “As I opened her letters, everyone would look at me and say, ‘Well, you’re not going to last long here.’”
That November, Redwitz left the seminary.
“Claudia, at the time, was working at the cinema in downtown Laguna Beach,” he recalled. “I walked into it unexpectedly while she was working, and the rest is history.”
Claudia and Randy were married in January 1970.
Redwitz said the decision to leave St. John’s wasn’t easy.
He grew up active in the church, serving as an altar boy at St. Catherine’s. He started giving some thought to the priesthood while attending Servite High School (he was a member of the school’s third graduating class, in 1964).
Before he attended St. John’s Seminary College, Redwitz spent a year at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, Calif., for general curriculum studies.
St. Mary’s College is administered by the De La Salle Brothers. Redwitz became close to a brother there.
“He was my counselor,” he recalled, “and the priesthood seemed like a calling that I was being given.”
At St. Mary’s, Redwitz chose business as a major.
And when he left St. John’s Seminary to marry Claudia, he turned to business to earn a living.
“When I left the seminary,” Redwitz said, “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. A priest in the seminary told me, ‘If you’ve had a calling to serve others through the priesthood, maybe you need to have a profession in which you can serve others,’ and that got me thinking about accounting.
“It seemed a good plan of action, so I went down that path.”
‘THE RIGHT THING TO DO’
What a path it’s been.
It all started when the best man at Redwitz’s wedding helped him land an interview at a very small accounting firm on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Redwitz got the job, which led to his decision to attend nearby USC, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting (’73).
Two years later, Redwitz received his license to practice as a certified public accountant.
He and Claudia and their first child, Jennie, then relocated to Orange County after Redwitz got a job at a slightly larger accounting firm in Anaheim. After 1 ½ years, however, that firm disbanded. A retiring partner asked Redwitz if he would like to buy his small portion of the practice.
“I grabbed the opportunity,” Redwitz recalled, “and that launched me into going out on my own. It was a little scary, but I just had a passion to do it. I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Today, Redwitz Inc. – headquartered on the 17th floor of that building near John Wayne Airport with a great view of the Santa Ana Mountains and beyond – employs some 150 professionals, with other offices in San Diego and San Jose.
Redwitz’s accounting practice includes three other companies: The GDR Group, Inc., launched in 1997, which specializes in information technology system installations, hardware, software and managed support; Redwitz Wealth Management Group Inc., established in 2003 and Trust Management Systems, established in 2017.
KEY FIGURE AT SANTA MARGARITA CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
Redwitz’s history of involvement with the Diocese of Orange began around 1987. It started when Fr. Louis Knight, the founding pastor of St. Edward’s, asked him to review the church’s financial records and send a report to then-Orange County Bishop Norman McFarland.
He hasn’t slowed down since.
Catholic education is one of Redwitz’s most dedicated passions, and from 1989 to 2010, while still maintaining his “day job”– his growing accounting firm – he served as the business manager and oversaw the development of the second phase of the master plan of Santa Margarita Catholic High School, which added an aquatics center, athletic building, a classroom building and athletic fields.
“I’m really proud of the work I did there,” said Redwitz, who still serves as a financial consultant for SMCHS.
“He set up many of the financial systems that we still use today,” Sulick said. “He’s been involved at some level here for 35 years. Randy and Claudia have helped countless families with the dream of affording affording a Catholic education.
“Randy lives his faith both in word and action. He is brilliant with accounting practices and strategies and has an extraordinary emotional quotient to understand the needs of a school, family or employee.”
Sulick added a fun fact about Redwitz:
“Randy was an original member of the Santa Margarita football ‘chain gang’ for 34 years, working at every home game,” he said. “We estimate that he watched and worked at 200 football games. He retired at the end of the 2021 season.”
Said Redwitz of SMCHS: “I really feel the work I did there was more meaningful than anything I have accomplished professionally and personally, short of my family. I was one step removed from directly impacting the students – I wasn’t a teacher – but I was facilitating the education of those students.”
OTHER DIOCESAN WORK
Between 1990 and 1998, Redwitz served as president of the Diocesan School Board. One of his proudest accomplishments was working to make diocesan schoolteacher salaries more competitive.
“He was a great advocate for the teachers,” Fr. Christopher said. “He has a great love for Catholic education and its importance.”
Redwitz also served, for nine months, as interim CFO for the Diocese of Orange following the retirement of Phil Ries in 2013. And, of course, Redwitz was very involved with the restoration of the Christ Cathedral campus and the cathedral itself, serving as CFO of Christ Catholic Cathedral Corp.
Added Redwitz: “Richard Heim, the invaluable volunteer project coordinator for the restoration of the cathedral specifically, always said to me, ‘Randy, how many times in your life do you have a chance to work on building a cathedral?’ And that’s always stuck with me. There’s great gravity to that.”
In addition, Redwitz’s company, The GDR Group ran all the IT infrastructure
services for the Diocese of Orange for more than a decade before the Diocese took it in house.
“He’s always been open to listening to people’s concerns, my concerns and providing me with the information I needed when I asked for it,” Fr. Christopher said. “He’s reserved and soft spoken, but he has a way about him. He has a great sense of humor, but it’s very subtle.
“Randy is a very dedicated Catholic, a man of deep faith and I’ve always felt very comfortable talking to him.”
Redwitz is co-chair with Rand Sperry of The Orange Catholic Foundation’s Conference on Business & Ethics (CBE), which is a much-anticipated event in Southern California, highlighting best ethical practices in the workplace and motivating leaders, personally and professionally. Partnerships from the conference support the Orange Catholic Schools Fund and the mission of The Orange Catholic Foundation.
In addition to his work with the Diocese, Redwitz has been the chief executive officer since 2003 of the non-profit The Caritas Corp., which buys and manages affordable housing projects, specifically mobile home communities, with the intent of providing affordable housing in a vibrant community setting for low-income individuals and families.
Under his leadership as CEO since 2003, The Caritas Corp. has grown to 32 residential communities throughout the state of California and Oregon – all of which serve a combined community of more than 15,000 residents.
“I’m really passionate about it,” Redwitz said of Caritas Corp.
He also has served as the chair of the St. Edward the Confessor parish finance council for more years than he can remember.
In addition, Randy is a vested knight and Claudia is a vested dame in the Order of Malta. International members each year travel to Lourdes, France, as pilgrims, bringing with them the sick and disabled from around the world.
Randy also serves as the chief financial officer of the local Order of Malta Orange location, and recently was elected to the board of directors of the western region of the Order of Malta.
Randy and Claudia have five grown children: Jennie, a publisher for a company that develops elementary school materials; Penny, a special education teacher; Eric, a commercial airline pilot; Rob, a partner in the Redwitz CPA firm; and Chad, a game software developer for Amazon.
Jennie attended Cornelia Connelly High School in Anaheim – the other four, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Penny was in the school’s charter class).
Randy and Claudia, who have eight grandchildren, love to travel.
As members of AGN International, a worldwide association of separate and independent accounting and advisory firms, and a member of the international board of directors, they’ve gone all over the world.
“I’d like to say I’ve got a friend in every country,” Redwitz said. “It’s not quite true, but there are a lot of friends in a lot of countries around the world.”
He and Claudia recently chartered a sailboat for a trip around the Dalmatian Islands in Croatia.
Faith, however, remains the focus of his life.
“As I’ve gotten older,” Redwitz said, “my faith has become more meaningful to me. When you’re growing a family, you’re very distracted. And when the kids are all gone, you have more time to focus on your faith. It’s an integral part of my life.”
Redwitz said he never envisioned becoming so active in the Diocese of Orange.
His wife has a theory.
“Claudia has said to me, ‘It was your being in the seminary that drove you to do as much as you’ve been doing for the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Orange.’”
Randy agrees. “I had taken that path of becoming a priest,” he said, “then chose a different path, got married and started a family, but I still wanted to use my God-given talent to do His will within the Catholic Church.”
It’s time for the cowboy to vamoose.
You can picture Redwitz heading out into the sunset, but it’s still only a couple of hours after high noon.
There’s still plenty of work to do.