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January 2, 2013 by Minuteman Trucks

By: Dick Witcher, CEO of Minuteman Trucks and Chairman of ATD
Source: Massachusetts Auto Dealer

Hey: I just turned 63 and during my life I have experienced many fixtures – – things I never thought would change. I started my career near Wall Street in lower Manhattan and the Port Authority was completing construction on the World Trade Center – – I thought those buildings would be there for the rest of my life. My first car was an Olds – – I couldn’t imagine the brand ever disappearing. For more than half of my life as a dealer Phil Brady was the President of the National Automobile Dealers Association – – at my second  (July 25, 2012) meeting as Chairman of the American Truck Dealers, Phil pulled me aside to let me know he was leaving the Association. About two weeks later he made the announcement public to a stunned Board of Directors and then the membership. My Board meeting was his last public event with NADA / ATD – – I never imagined anyone but Phil running the daily operation.

Hey: I became a first time Grandfather to beautiful little Margot on December 7 – – I never thought I would get older. So things change and life goes on; so too at NADA / ATD: we needed to search for a new leader. Coincidentally, at the NADA Board meeting in early July in Executive session, 63 Board members argued about the role of the Chairman and the President, for example: who should be the face of the organization, how public should the Association be, was proactive and leading edge or behind the scenes the best approach for us. So in fact, we began before we knew Phil was leaving us a discussion of the role of the President and the characteristics that person should have to effectively run the Association.

After Phil’s announcement, Bill Underriner and David Wescott met to outline a strategy for finding Phil’s successor. Initially the search was patterned on the search for Frank McCarthy’s replacement. Underriner discussed the approach on a confidential phone call with members of the Executive Committee. From my perspective the most important part of that telephone call was the identification of the members of the search committee. At first there were no plans to include a truck dealer in the search. With the help of other Executive Committee members Underriner was persuaded to use a representative from truck. It was argued that truck dealers make-up about 12.5% of the total membership of the Association and should therefore have representation.

By the end of the call the members of the search committee were recommended, selected and with one exception were all former chair people of the NADA and ATD. A plan was set to identify a couple of highly regarded search firms from whom the committee would select to assist the search headed by former NADA Chairman John McEleney. After interviews with a couple of firms the search committee selected Spencer Stuart and targeted placement of the new President before the Convention in Orlando at the beginning of February. The statistics of the search are surprising: over 400 people were contacted by Spencer to farm information, over 100 people applied for the position (both internal and external candidates); the search committee conducted MANY phone calls, a bunch of meetings to cull through all of the information and finally a slew of interviews. I am told all of the candidates were highly impressive the tough part of the job for the search committee was getting down to the final candidates. After lots of deliberation all of the applicants boiled down to 10 candidates from whom the search committee selected four finalists. For the final interviews the finalists needed to present plans on their individual approach to managing and where necessary changing the Association.

Most of the Executive Committee members with whom I have regular communication don’t see a dramatic need to change the organization. The heads of all of the departments are extremely professional. We just completed, in early December, a combined Executive and Finance Committees Budget Review Meeting: the Association is in fantastic financial shape and all of the departments performed better than budgeted for 2012.

As of today (12.21.12) the search committee is in the process of completing background checks and due diligence for the final candidates. The search committee is empowered to recommend a candidate for the position of President. But, the entire Board of Directors, 63 members, must approve the selection of the search committee before a President is selected. The schedule is for an early January meeting of the entire NADA / ATD Board in Texas; at that meeting a final candidate will be selected. Hopefully, the new Association President will be installed before the beginning of the Convention.

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