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Incoming Secretary RD Hopper is ready to do his part.
I have benefited from other ARA members who have given of their time to serve on the Executive Committee – now it’s my turn to do my part,” said RD Hopper, the new Secretary for ARA’s Executive Committee for 2013- 2014. “I plan to bring my energy, industry experience, and enthusiasm to the table and do what I can to make sure our industry stays valid and continues to thrive in the future.”

Hopper grew up in the auto parts industry, spending many summers with his grandfather, L.D. Hopper, a District Manager for the Arkansas State Highway Department who was responsible for, among many things, vehicle and equipment purchases and maintenance. RD learned a lot about cars and parts during those summers. In addition to that, RD’s father, Roger Hopper, owned and operated Hopper’s Auto Parts in Mt. View, Arkansas for many years. When RD wasn’t in school, he was often helping in the family business and learning hands-on.

“I grew up around new auto parts and it wasn’t until my wife and I were expecting our first baby, that I decided to make the move to auto recycling,” said Hopper. “My first job was as an auto parts salesman that eventually led to my wife and I purchasing Sonny’s Auto Salvage.”

Sonny’s, which is located in Jacksonville, Arkansas, has been serving the Central Arkansas area for over 37 years and has been a family-owned and operated organization.  There has been a salvage yard at Sonny’s current location since the early 1960s. It was owned and operated at varying times by both James Bell and Joe Mills. In 1976 Sonny Taylor purchased the business from Joe Mills and renamed it Sonny’s Auto Salvage. The Taylors’ operated the business for 22 years before deciding to sell it to the Hoppers in order to retire.

RD Hopper and his wife Jennifer purchased the business in June of 1998. They have continued the tradition of family with their children, Blake (25), Alex (12) and Anna (9), representing yet another generation of Hoppers growing up in the auto parts business. Sonny’s Auto Salvage encompasses about 22 acres and specializes in late model domestic and foreign cars and trucks. Sonny’s also stocks a wide variety of aftermarket parts and some new OEM parts. It has grown to employ about 20 people. Hopper closes the business on Saturday so employees can spend time with their families.

Hopper has years of industry experience that he brings to his new role as ARA’s Executive Committee Secretary. Sonny’s has been an active member of ARA and Arkansas Automotive Dismantlers and Recyclers Association (AADRA) for many years and Hopper served as President of AADRA and is currently their Southwest Director. For ARA, Hopper was recently an At-Large Director and is the chair of the NMVTIS workgroup which is part of the Governmental Affairs Committee. In this capacity, he regularly works with both the state and federal legislative houses.

Sonny’s is also a charter partner and member of URG. 

Hopper says that one of the main goals he hopes to achieve during his term as Secretary is to help ensure fair trade in the industry.

“One of the things I would like to really work on is establishing a fair marketplace to purchase total-loss vehicles, especially when it comes to international bidders,” said Hopper. “I’m all for free trade as long as it is fair trade. We want to work with honest businesses to ensure that salvage is not bought by less than honest businesses that may have the intent to put unsafe vehicles back out on the road.

“I also want to work on the interchangeability of parts and accuracy of descriptions between insurance companies, body shops and recyclers to make sure we work together to get vehicles fixed quickly and economically. We want to be part of the solution – getting the right parts to the right place at the right time. We can better achieve this if our parts descriptions and information are uniform and accurate.”

Hopper is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work and says he is looking forward to working with many ARA members.

“I love the people in this industry,” said Hopper.  “They are like family and I can’t wait to meet new members and work together to make our businesses the best they can be!”

Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.

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