Staff Spotlight: Tim Gutzwiller, mechanical hero

Farm mechanic repairs everything, including his repair shop
By Erin Chapman |

When a large trash truck, tractor, or street sweeper breaks down, imagine trying to fix it. Tim Gutzwiller, Facilities Service’s senior farm mechanic, can, and quite easily.

Two years ago, UCR would have to seek out specialized vendors for the mechanical assistance. This prolonged bringing equipment into commission and landscape staff’s ability to use it.

Gutzwiller just needs eyes on the equipment, and he instinctively envisions taking it apart and determining the solution in his mind. He is a diagnostician of engines.

He obtained his first job at age 14, at Al Kerrs Bike Shop in South Gate, CA, but by then he had been mechanically working on things since he was even younger.

Growing up, his parents owned a set of apartment buildings. Whenever something broke on the property, his father let him attempt to repair it. The rule was he could disassemble something under the condition that he would put it back together. Through this, he gained hands-on experience with plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and honed a photographic memory.

He started with repairing lawn mowers, then bicycles, followed by cars in high school auto shop. Straight out of high school he went to work for Lindt Wilson Ford in South Gate. They sent him to Ford Motor Company’s job entry program for new mechanics, paid for by the dealership. He also attended the Paul-Munroe school of hydraulics in Whittier and took classes at Cummins Cal Pacific in Irvine, also paid by his employers.

“I have received way more green lights in my life than running into red lights,” Gutzwiller said when describing his career. “A lot of my ability comes from my training… I’ve just been given opportunities to go to classes since I was a very young mechanic,” he said.

Robert Martinez, Assistant Farm Mechanic, and Tim Gutzwiller, Farm Mechanic, fix departmental equipment in their repair shop. (UCR/Erin Chapman)

He wishes more companies would continue to invest in employee training today like they did in the past, as he sees it for the common good. He believes education is one of the things that levels the playing field. He commended UCR for being top in the nation for social mobility. “Being No. 1 or No. 2 in anything, especially when you look at the country with so many people, takes effort,” he said.

When Gutzwiller started at UCR in August of 2022, he quickly organized the Landscape Services repair shop and instituted new processes. He and Robert Martinez, assistant farm mechanic, cleared the shop floor. He organized the oil room. He restored the shop’s non-working generator. He retrofitted the vice and bench grinder. He welded new tables.

Gutzwiller sees the importance of keeping the campus looking clean and orderly using the vehicles he oversees. “Most people don’t think about trash, but guess what, there is a lot of trash generated that we have to pick up on a day-to-day basis. Or, having all the landscape maintained,” he said.

Tos Ishida, assistant director of Landscape Services and Gutzwiller’s supervisor, recognizes Gutzwiller not only as a good mechanic and welder, but as well-connected. “He’s been able to find us parts. He has good contacts with other people,” he said.

Hassan Ghamlouch, director of Environmental & Resource Services, said Gutzwiller keeps the department in good-working condition. “All of our equipment is aging and old. He has saved us in dividends with his knowledge and expertise,” Ghamlouch said.

Farm Mechanic Tim Gutzwiller fabricated a welding table and established an organized welding area. (UCR/Erin Chapman)

When he is off the clock, Gutzwiller enjoys working on his motorcycles and bicycles. He loves metal fabrication and creating things.

He participates in a monthly, electric light parade held in downtown Riverside, which was started a few years ago. It is a family-friendly event where people can bring their bikes. The group meets approximately two hours before sunset and begins their ride when the daylight disappears.