An Exclusive Interview with the 2020 CDAR Award Winners

During CDAR’s Installation event in December 2020, three people were recognized for their outstanding work in the community and with the association: Robin DuFault, the 2020 CDAR President, was awarded the esteemed REALTOR® of the Year award; Kathleen Buys was awarded the Affiliate of the Year award for a record fifth time; and Stephenie Zinn, the 2020 C.A.R. YPN Chair, was given the President’s Award. The three of them recently took some time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions and provide insight into their background, their lives and their passions.


Tell us a little bit about your background.

Robin DuFault: I’ve had a variety of jobs/opportunities in my working life, from working in film and TV to advertising to the Better Business Bureau. In Film and TV I worked as an extra and as the “stand-in” for Meredith Baxter and David Cassidy. Also, did a lot of behind the scenes as a production assistant and interned on the 3 camera TV Series “Mork and Mindy.” I wrote and produced a documentary for KNBC Los Angeles which was narrated by Ralph Waite about the effects of alcoholism on families.

Kathleen Buys: I was born and raised in San Francisco during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s! The eldest of three daughters, and my father was a 3rd generation San Franciscian, and a judge!  I moved to the desert in 1974, and raised four children here! My second husband, John Buys, owned the first men’s store on El Paseo in the ‘60’s…John Buys Menswear! I entered into the title industry in 1976 and opened Orange Coast Title in 1980, along with Derek Walker! I have managed numerous title companies in the valley, but my biggest dream was to work at First American! I saved the best until last…five years ago, my dream came true! I have received the Affiliate of the Year for CDAR over 5 times in my 45 year career! I also help start many of the committees for the board in the early ‘80’s….Scholarship, Membership, Sunshine Committee, and Community Services!

Stephenie Zinn: I’m a 3rd generation Coachella Valley native and I started my career in real estate at nineteen years old.  I earned my license eight years later in 2006 and have found my passion in real estate through leadership and building real estate careers.  I’m the daughter of two athletic coaches who both kept their focus on the fundamentals and I like to think I followed in their footsteps, just in a different industry.


What is a typical day like for you?

Robin DuFault: I started in Real Estate in 2003 and have been with Bennion Deville for 17 years.  It is both challenging and rewarding to work with buyers and sellers of properties. During the early 2000’s I was appointed to the Indio Planning Commission which added another dimension to my working knowledge. One of my first sales was a large land parcel to a Builder and I became hooked on dirt. I would say that is where my passion is since there is so much to research with the land, zoning, land use, etc.

Kathleen Buys: This industry has changed so much in the past few years. Title companies are so limited to what they can and can’t do! Along with the Insurance Commissioner, and COVID-19, our jobs are changed tremendously! My job every day, is to get my agents/clients the support they need in getting their transactions opened and over the finish line! I pride myself and FA team with the experience, knowledge, tools and support 24/7, in being the number one problem solver in the industry!

Stephenie Zinn: I’m usually up by 5:30 for a quick workout and to browse the MLS for the latest hot properties.  I’m in the office by 9:00 to lead generate and grow the Better Homes and Gardens Desert Lifestyle Properties office I manage on El Paseo in Palm Desert.  The late morning is reserved to check in on my agents.  While, early afternoons are when I hold most of my appointments.  I do my best to regroup for the day and be home by 6:00 to have dinner with my mom, who I started caring for full-time last year.  Each evening I spend a little time unwinding by meditating and cuddling with my 11 year old Maltese, Westley.


Tell us something we don’t know about you.

Robin DuFault: My advertising career was in print sales of directories for Paramount Studios and The Better Business Bureau (at one point was promoted to Director to oversee production of the books). I also sold print ads for the alternative newspaper, The LA Weekly. Around this time, I enrolled in college and eventually earned a BA. I only mentioned this because in High School I was told by a Counselor that I wasn’t college material.

Kathleen Buys: I turn 70 this year, have 8 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren! I love my job more than I ever have.

Stephenie Zinn: While I’m a desert girl at heart, I really unwind when I’m near the water.  Ocean, lake or river, I just love to be outside and the movement of a natural body of water reminds me that there are greater forces at work in life than all of us.


What do you find to be most important when it comes to volunteering?

Robin DuFault: My volunteer work with CDAR began in 2008 with DACIE, the commercial MLS for CDAR. In 2015 I was asked to volunteer as a Board of Director member. The more I understood about the workings of the Association the more involved I got with various Committees. Most anyone who volunteers will admit it is rewarding to give back, but I’ll add that hearing different opinions in a group dynamic is eye-opening and often inspiring.

Kathleen Buys: I still cherish my time volunteering, whether it’s on a board committee, community events, charities, like Shelter From the Storm, which I also help start…giving back is my passion! I still hear from many past recipients of the Scholarship Awards…10- 15 years later, because we made a difference and touched their lives!

Stephenie Zinn: I was raised with the belief that we have a duty to leave things better than we found them. I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with some amazing mentors who have dedicated their time and efforts to my success.  I’m often reminded of my Dad’s words to his baseball players, “Take what you need while you’re here.  Someday, you have to give it all back.”  It is my greatest honor to give back everything this desert and our industry have given to me.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

Robin DuFault: It has been said that REALTORS® never retire so in five years I expect I will be doing much of the same.

Kathleen Buys: I plan to be retired!

Stephenie Zinn: Oh no, I don’t play that game any longer.  Ha ha!  I spent the first 40 years of my life planning for lots of things while life happened all around me.  I’m excited for the journey I’m on and feel like I’m continuing to evolve into a better version of myself.  If I could describe the path I’m on, it’s more about learning to roll with the punches rather than to be the one throwing them.  With that said, I am currently studying for my broker license while I wait for my test date and I’m always looking for the next way to step up my game.  I don’t have an intention for where that will lead me.  I just know I want to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday.