As Automotive Fleet magazine celebrates its golden anniversary, a lyric from a Beatles song of yesteryear plays in the back of my mind: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
This lyric embodies the strength of AF. Our 50-year milestone could not have been reached without the support of our readers, who work in every facet of the fleet management profession, and our long-time (business partner) advertisers and supporters.
Within this issue, you’ll find a multitude of very personal letters from readers sharing remembrances of AF. One that particularly hit home with me was from Sue Miller of McDonald’s, who wrote: “It really freaks me out that I’ve been reading Automotive Fleet for 32 of those 50 years.” Wow! It didn’t hit home until I read Sue’s letter, but I’ve been employed at Automotive Fleet for half of those 50 years! Although the years flew by very quickly, they brought many (many) great memories.
What makes AF a “special publication,” and not just another run-of-the-mill trade magazine, is our relationship with our readers, a large number of whom we’ve known for many years on a first-name basis. There is no better example of this “special relationship” than the many letters we receive from our readers. When readers discovered that 2011 will be AF’s 50th anniversary, the response was overwhelming! We received so many congratulatory letters that we literally ran out of room in the print edition of the magazine. In addition to the cumulative eight full pages of letters in this issue, we will publish a comparable number of additional letters on our website. Be sure to check them out at www.automotive-fleet.com — they’re terrific!
It is professionally gratifying to everyone at AF to read letters from readers complimenting us on the quality of the magazine. However, it is impossible to produce this quality without the involvement of our readers, who month-after-month freely share their expertise with us and their industry peers. I want to share my appreciation with each and every one of you — both past and present — who have contributed your fleet management expertise to produce editorial content that is timely and relevant. As a friend, I sincerely thank you!
When I first joined Automotive Fleet, my goal was to become an “expert” in fleet management. However, I learned very early in my career that this is impossible to do in a dynamic and ever-changing industry. The best one can do is to strive to stay in the vanguard of the ever-changing flow within our industry. I pride myself as a student of fleet, and I have been very lucky to have been able to learn from the best and brightest in our industry — the best “fleet graduate school” in the country.
Early in my career, I also realized very few of us entered fleet as a career objective. The overwhelming majority stumbled into fleet, but upon getting a taste of it, never wanted to leave. Over my 25 years in the business, I’ve spoken with thousands of fleet professionals and the universal observation is what satisfies them the most about our business is the people. There is a “community” found among fleet professionals that is very special. It’s hard to describe to outsiders, but it’s real. It is the source of many friendships that continue long after retirement.
When I was a fleet rookie, I remember the many veterans who took me under their wings to educate me about the business. Most of them have no idea of the cumulative influence they had on my career. Unfortunately, many of my early mentors are no longer with us, but their memories remain fresh in my mind. As with so many others in our industry, Don Fenton had a remarkable influence on me and I learned so much from our many interviews and off-the-record conversations. (We briefly even worked together.) It is simply amazing how many fleet careers Don influenced over the years.
My earliest mentor was Sal Giacchi, who was fleet manager for GAB and later Lorillard. I first met Sal when he visited our office during my first month on the job in 1985. He spent the day with me and another editor. Sal was the first fleet manager I ever met. He was gracious, articulate, and knew his craft. From that day on, Sal was always available whenever I needed assistance.
Another influential mentor was Jim Rallo, since retired from PHH, but with whom I still remain friends. Jim was instrumental in getting me involved with NAFA. He recruited me to the NAFA Affiliates Committee (where I’m currently the longest reigning member) and the NAFA Foundation Board of Directors, where I continue to serve.
One person who might not realize the impact she had on me is Patsy Brownson, who was the catalyst to getting me involved in AFLA. I remember running into Patsy in the atrium of the Opryland Hotel during an industry meeting. She encouraged me to run for the open AFLA director at large position, which allowed me to be part of the association’s board of directors. Similarly, I’m indebted to Mark Conroy who encouraged me to run for the open AFLA VP position. Three years later, I was honored to lead this terrific association to new heights as its president. It is one of the highlights of my fleet career.
However, the greatest influence on my fleet career, bar none, has been Ed Bobit. Ed took a chance with me when he hired me back in 1985. A quarter of a century later, I was beaming when Ed personally inducted me into the Fleet Hall of Fame. In his introduction, Ed had many nice things to say about me, but what stood out was his observation that during our 25 years together, we’ve never had an argument. I never thought about it, but it’s absolutely true. It was a great way to exemplify our friendship and my personal respect for Ed.
Ed, you are a true visionary and a self-made giant in our industry! Your legacy will live in the annals of fleet history. I’m eternally grateful you’ve allowed me to share in this labor of love known as Automotive Fleet magazine. Thank you, Ed!