The 69th ARA Awards Dinner had a reflective spirit to it this year. It began with a solemn moment as the ARA family joined together for a moment of silence in honor of URG’s Michelle Alexander’s daughter, Jessica, who had passed away at her college only days before the convention. It was evident of the heartfelt concern that ARA members expressed for Michelle and her family.

Outgoing President Randy Reitman expressed his gratitude to fellow ARA members for their support and warm welcome that was extended as he and ARA’s CEO Michael Wilson visited their businesses and worked with them throughout the past year.

Incoming President Chris Wright drew parallels between the current state of the industry and the time when his father, Ken Wright, was ARA President (1988 to 1989), as well as other eras of the industry. He gleaned this information from reading over his father’s ARA meeting notes and back issues of ARA’s magazine. Wright is the third father/son duo to hold the position of President of ARA.

The ARA Educational Foundation supplied each table with party items, such as hats with bright lights and whistles to put a little fun into the night’s fundraising efforts. In Foundation news, outgoing ARA Educational Foundation President Sandy Blalock handed over the reigns to Fran Reitman.

ARA CEO Michael Wilson reported that ARA had another good year. “I would like to thank Randy Reitman and fellow officers for all the work they have done over the last year to make this organization stronger.

“We’ve had another very good year and added 125 new members,” said Wilson. “This year, we expanded the ARA government affairs team with the addition of Jessica Thomas and Delanne Bernier. I feel that we have made some very good progress in tackling the legislative issues that face the industry.

“I encourage recyclers to build relationships with their legislators, even though it takes time to do so. Ricky Young has done just that over the years with his local legislator. Now it’s at the point that when a statute is under consideration that would harm our industry, Ricky’s legislator says, ‘I don’t do anything about cars unless I talk to Ricky first.’”

Thanks to the efforts of the ARA North Carolina members, Wilson reported that a proposed change to an existing statute that would have harmed our business was denied. “We have some tough issues facing us, but it’s the combined efforts of ARA staff, members, and associates working together that will make the difference and help us overcome these obstacles,” he said.

One of the staff who has worked very hard to help make the industry stronger is Kelly Badillo, ARA Membership Director. She received an award for 20 years of service, dedication, and support that she has given to ARA and to the industry.

The end of the evening included awards, accolades, and Educational Foundation Auction with, among many great items, an awesome 4-week trip to Belize that brought in top dollar, and was donated by Greg Lamb of Lamb Fuels.

Following, Reitman said in his parting words, “I can’t believe that a year has gone by already. It’s a role I took on with a little hesitation, but I’m glad I took it on. You’re my family – I mean it, it’s the truth. People are so nice to us and you opened up your homes and your businesses because you wanted to help out. I am pleased to say that my goal of doubling the CAR program during my term has almost been realized – we added 48 new CAR members this year.”

Reitman then handed the gavel, and with it the role of ARA President, over to Chris Wright, Capital Auto Parts, Thomasville, Georgia. “I’m honored to be here as President of this association,” said Wright. “I believe we have to look to our past to see how to proceed in the future. The key is education – then and now. The ARA University has done a phenomenal job of educating our members and providing the information we need to overcome these issues. However, we have to continue, we can’t become complacent and just stop there. I encourage you to get involved. Participate in ARA and you’ll see the reward. I look forward to working with, I hope, a lot of you this year.”

The Star Awards recognize four members each year who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to the Association and the Industry. The recipients of these awards, mentioned below, are selected by ARA members each year and awarded to them at the annual Awards Dinner.

ARA AFFIlIATE CHAPTER OF THE YEAR – Automotive Recyclers of Michigan

– Morris Rose Auto, Kalamazoo, MI

– George Sapir, Intercity Auto Wrecking Co., Bedford, Oh

MEMBER OF THE YEAR – Ian Hill, Hills Salvage and Recycling ltd., UK

LIFETIME HONORARY MEMBERS – Greg Freeman & Jim Seamans

PRESIDENT’S AWARD – Norman Wright, Stadium Auto Parts, Colorado

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

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