September 1, 2012
Growing up in the business that his dad, Ken Wright, started in 1969, Chris Wright of Capital Auto Parts, Inc., located in Thomasville, Georgia, “officially” joined the business after college in 1991 and has been full steam ahead ever since. In 1999, he served on the board of Georgia Automotive Recyclers Association (GARA) and became its president from 2003 to 2007. He also served as a Regional Director for ARA in 2003-2004, winning the ARA Regional Director Star Award in 2004. At ARA’s 69th Annual Convention, to be held in Orlando, Florida in October, Chris will become the 2012-2013 ARA President when current ARA President Randy Reitman relinquishes the gavel.
In 2009, Chris was nominated to serve as Secretary on the Executive Committee.
“I have really enjoyed working with all the ARA committees,” said Chris. “There was a by-laws change introduced last year that switched the duties of First Vice President and Second Vice President. I was the member of the Executive Committee that it affected. It allowed me to have the opportunity to serve as the Executive Committee liaison to the ARA committees for two years. I feel the committees of the ARA are the lifeblood of the Association and it has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I feel privileged to have had that opportunity.”
As he gets ready to step into his new role, Chris says he is ready to get busy continuing the great work that has already been initiated by previous presidents.
“I’m excited!” he said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help improve and advance ARA by implementing what I’ve learned about the industry and our Association over the last several years.”
Some of Chris’s goals as ARA President include advancing and improving the member services that ARA has to offer. This covers a wide range of activities that ARA is engaged in, including Government Affairs at both the state and federal level, accreditation programs, safety, salvage acquisition, insurance, and much more.
“In order to achieve these goals we need to improve the communication and support from the Executive Committee, Regional Directors, and staff to help the committees of ARA to improve and complete the projects and programs they are currently working on. If we continue to improve our support and resources to help them achieve their goals, it will benefit the Association and its members.”
Chris plans to continue work on several key industry issues throughout his presidency. Two major areas he plans to focus on are salvage acquisition and legislation.
“As president I will continue to task the Executive Committee to study and move forward on the elements of salvage acquisition that are hurdles in our industry so that we can help ARA to create some positive changes on this important issue,” said Chris. “I also will focus on legislation. There continues to be a need for our involvement in legislative issues and I will continue to provide the resources and support needed by the Government Affairs Committee.”
On a reflective note, Chris expresses gratitude and respect to his peers and fellow members.
“I would like to thank you for the support you’ve given me over the last three years,” he said. “I look forward to serving you as the President of ARA. I have an open door policy, so please do not hesitate to contact me if you have anything you would like to discuss. My goal is to advance and improve the member services; however, to gain the most from your Association you need to be involved. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities ARA offers whether it’s participating on a committee or even just attending a convention.”
Like Father, Like Son
Chris Wright’s upcoming role as ARA President will mark only the fourth time in the history of the organization that two generations have served as ARA President. Chris and his father, Ken Wright, who served as ARA President from 1988 to 1989, will become the third father and son duo of Presidents while the late Norm Dulaney and his daughter Linda Pittman hold the only father/daughter title. The other father/son duos include: Harold and Ken Schram and Jack and Phil Sheppard.
The unique aspect of this duo is that the ARA Presidency isn’t the only role that Ken and Chris have shared. Ken also served as President of the Georgia Automotive Recyclers Association (GARA) from 1979 to 1981 and as a Regional Director for ARA from 1983 to 1984. He says he is pleased to see his son follow the same path to presidency.
“I’m so pleased that Chris wants to further his involvement in the Association,” said Ken. “I joined NATWA in the early seventies, which eventually became ADRA and is now, of course, known as ARA. I went to my first convention in 1975 in Palm Springs, California. Everything I’ve accomplished in my business I owe to what I’ve learned from my involvement in the associations, whether it’s been through the ARA conventions, educational seminars, or just chatting with other recyclers. It’s given me an education that can’t be bought, and the people are great. I can count on members from any state. So, I’m excited that my son is about to become an ARA President.”
Some of the lessons that Chris has learned from watching his father in these roles are ones he feels will help him in his upcoming position.
“Dad has always emphasized the importance of the responsibilities that the leadership of an Association has to its members and that the decisions made should reflect their best interest,” said Chris. “One of the best lessons I’ve learned has been unspoken. I watch how well received and respected he is within the industry and that motivates me to achieve that for myself through dedicated service to the Association and respect for its members.”
The major achievements that were realized during Ken Wright’s term as ARA President in 1988-89 include establishing ARA as their own entity apart from the International Management Group, starting rebate checks to ARA members who took part in the CNA Insurance program, increasing ARA membership to about 1,500 members and changing the Past Presidents and Immediate Past President’s trip from a pleasure trip to a study trip. The first such trip was to Great Britain where the Past and Immediate Past Presidents visited auto recycling facilities and established long-standing relationships with recyclers in the UK.
Ken feels that the role of president in today’s marketplace is much harder than when he was ARA President.
“When I was President of ARA, it was much easier to make money in this business,” said Ken. “It’s much harder to be president today because of the salvage acquisition issue. When I was president I was buying my salvage from a contract with an insurance company and many other recyclers were buying from salvage pools. It was much easier to buy cars and make money then. The Internet really changed things and now it seems anyone can buy salvage.”
Chris agrees that technology is the biggest difference from his time as president.
“I like to joke with Dad that when he was president they were using the telegraph to send messages,” he said. “Besides the telephone and a newly purchased ‘thermal paper’ fax machine, that is all he had to use to communicate. No internet, no e-mail, no webinars, no cell phones – how did they survive?”
“Yet, looking back over some of the material that Dad has saved, a lot of the issues were the same. However, we have added a lot more programs since then and more committees and staff to help accommodate and achieve the ever-growing needs of our association,” said Chris.
Although many years separate their two terms as president and the issues and technology have changed, one thing remains the same. They both agree that being an ARA President is an honor and one they wouldn’t want to miss.
Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia, and a regular contributor to Automotive Recycling magazine.