Obituary: RST Founder and CEO Rod Sutliff

For more than 30 years, RS Technical Services founder and CEO, Rod Sutliff, guided his company and the closed-circuit TV inspection equipment field into a future he could see with surprising clarity. Following a recent history of heart-related issues, Sutliff, 80, passed away Aug. 28, while taking his daily walk around the RST campus.

As the “RS” in the company name, Sutliff spent more than 30 years pioneering technology in his chosen specialty, leading his firm to become known as “a company of firsts.” Under his leadership, the firm was the first to manufacture a mainline camera with internal lights, a true pan-and-tilt camera with tracking lights, and the first single-conductor panomorphic camera system, among many other pioneering products.

Perhaps best known for his kind, friendly demeanor, Sutliff was famous for championing those less fortunate, having variously provided help for people he knew were down on their luck. He has over the years helped many individuals get their lives back together by providing assistance with housing, money, and/or employment.

“When they made Rod, they broke the mold,” says longtime industry consultant Suzan Marie Chin, with Creative Raven Marketing and Public Relations. “He was the real deal, a great person and a true creative force. He made everyone around him feel loved. His words may not have been flowery, but you knew you were appreciated. Rod’s been a fixture in this industry for decades, and he leaves a heck of a brain trust behind.”

At the helm of that brain trust now is an executive family quorum focused on keeping Sutliff’s vision alive. “We have been trained our entire lives to think as entrepreneurs,” states Tricia McCarten, his eldest daughter and previous president of RST. Michael, Rod’s second son and a highly successful businessman himself will monitor family involvement and will help guide future decision-making. Juan Torres will continue as operations manager to manage all day to day operations.

“We all loved Rod, who made this whole company feel like a welcoming family. He showed us all how to conduct ourselves with honesty, integrity and dedication to our customers. I know I speak for everyone here at RST when I say that though he’s left a hole that will never quite be filled, he also left a meaningful legacy of curiosity, creativity and confidence in our collective vision of the possibilities still to be discovered in CCTV equipment. I look forward to working with our very capable leadership team to continue RST’s track record of leadership and innovation,” said McCarten.

Sutliff was credited with several innovations in many industries. A number of his accomplishments and innovations include several NASA projects while working for Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), teaching electronics at Pasadena City College and starting several businesses including Willtronix in Los Angeles, Marin Tek/Polycold in Marin County and RS Technical Services in the North Bay. RST and the family asks that anyone who would like to do something to commemorate Rod, can make a donation to COTS, Petaluma Kitchen, Hospice of Petaluma or your favorite charity.
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