I’ve always found the automotive aftermarket a great and important industry. And I also always felt that it is the people who make our industry so special. Quite often though, technicians and shops owners don’t receive the credit that they deserve. Which is why I am proud to dedicate my editorial this month to some of the industry’s finest. The following are winners of various automotive-related awards. I think you will find these and all of the hard working technicians and shop owners to be winners — even if the only reward they receive is a “thank you” smile from a customer who is happy to have their repaired vehicle back on the road. Congratulations to these recent award winners and to all of the organizations and suppliers that take the time to make these awards possible.
Eric Babcock, an automotive technician and instructor from New Orleans, LA, was named Educator of the Year at the North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) 2006 Conference held recently in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Each year, Mitchell 1 recognizes one of the nation’s top teachers for excellence in automotive repair instruction.
Babcock is ASE-certified as a master automobile technician and master diesel technician, as well as certified in Advanced Engine Performance (L1) and Advanced Diesel Performance (L2). He has been employed by Delgado Community College in New Orleans since August of 1981; first as an automotive and diesel instructor through 1999, and later as the department coordinator through 2004. Currently, Babcock is a teacher in the Ford Motor Co. ASSET Program.
In September, NAPA Auto Parts and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) named Kit Johnson of East Helena, MT, the 2007 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year. Johnson, owner of J4 Automotive, Inc. in East Helena is an ASE Master Certified Technician and holds numerous ASE certifications. He was selected for the prestigious honor as a result of his 30 years of automotive experience, endless commitment and service to customers, continual dedication to his employees and leadership in the industry.
Johnson, who opened his shop in 1994, has grown his team to three automotive technicians, one lube/maintenance technician and a service advisor. In addition to many local and regional awards, J4 Automotive was the recipient of the AAA Top Shop award for customer service in the AAA Mountain West Region in 2001, 2003, 2005 and most recently in 2006.
The Automotive Management Institute (AMI), in conjunction with Babcox Publications, recently announced Steve Sallinger, owner and president, Ole Metairie Car Care, Inc., Metairie, LA, as the recipient of the Tom B. Babcox Memorial Scholarship.
Sallinger has worked in the automotive service industry for 30 years and has been a shop owner for the last 20. He is an ASE Certified Master Technician and recently completed the necessary requirements to earn the Institute’s Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation.
When not working in the shop, he contributes his time to various community and industry organizations, including serving as the vice president of the ASA-New Orleans affiliate and participating on the Advisory Board for Delgado Community College Automotive Department.
Victor Reinz recently announced that Tim Gunter has been named this year’s Victor Reinz Machinist of the Year. A machinist for more than 13 years, Gunter currently works as a machinist for TTP/ Diesel Power & Machine in Pierceton, IN, where he is a key asset to their machine shop. His early beginnings as a machinist stemmed from his constantly helping his father fix broken machines.
The judges stated the deciding factors for this year’s winner included an outstanding work history, letters of recommendation and dedicated community involvement. Clevite said being in the business for more than 27 years and being District Commissioner for the Boy Scouts of America were key factors in making their choice. While there is no merit badge for machinery, Gunter, still shares his passion with his boys, stating, “We’ll walk through the shop and I’ll show them various parts and what they do.”
Greg Epsaro, owner of Harriman Auto in Harriman, NY, has been named the 2006 TECH-NET Professional Auto Service/ASE Technician of the Year. He was selected for the award after meeting the criteria set by CARQUEST Auto Parts.
Since 1984, Epsaro has owned his family business, Harriman Auto, located in Orange County, NY. The state-of-the-art facility has 11 bays and includes the most up-to-date diagnostic, suspension and alignment equipment available. An advocate of ASE certification, he holds 47 ASE certifications and requires all technicians at Harriman Auto to become ASE certified.
Epsaro is a member of the World Class Automotive Hall of Fame, located in Michigan, and is a three-time finalist for the CARQUEST Excellence Award. His community involvement includes working for the local fire department, where he has earned congressional recognition for his work. He is also a board member for the Orange County, NY, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and mentors local high school students and promotes automotive technician careers.