Evening marking the transition to WANADAs next CEO evokes 82 years of Washington auto business memories

Evening marking the transition to WANADAês next CEO evokes 82 years of Washington auto business memories

Historical fact: The new car dealer association in Washington began in DC almost 100 years ago. The first chief executive officer, however, didnêt come on board until 1932, or 82 years ago, and his name was Richard Murphy. In the 1920s, Dick Murphy was one of a number of successful auto dealers in the City of Washington, who, along with his dealer colleagues, was a member of the Washington Automotive Trade Association, the forerunner group to todayês Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA).

These were but several of scores of factoids presented, discussed and bandied about over cocktails and dinner on May 29, 2014 at the newly opened Marriott Marquis to mark the occasion of the –Passing of the Key” to the WANADA office from the associationês current CEO of 30 plus years, Gerard Murphy, to his successor, John OêDonnell.

Dick Murphy was Gerry Murphyês grandfather, who was chief of staff at the association until 1955, when his son, Mike Murphy, Gerryês Dad, became CEO of the newly formed Automotive Trade Association National Capital Area — the name of the group until 1995 when it at last became WANADA.

So when did Gerry Murphy become WANADAês CEO and what does all this family stuff have to do with it? Well, letês see: Gerry took over as WANADAês CEO when his father, Mike Murphy, stepped out in 1982, which is how Gerry logged 32 years in the job. As the third in succession of Murphy CEOs back to 1932, thatês where the 82 year look-back on the automobile business in the Washington area came from that themed the dinner program. From there, bubbled-up the variety of video testimonials and real-time presentations, accentuated by literally hundreds of historical Washington car business photos and dance music for the WANADA dealer and kindred-line members on hand, joined by public officials, other Washington area business leaders, industry partners and association professionals.

It isnêt at all unusual in the automobile business for sons to follow fathers, and in some instances grandfathers, into the family business as is well evidenced here in the Washington area. While not typical in trade associations, WANADA followed the same track of its dealer membership over the years by staffing its top spot with three successive Murphys, the background for which was memorably demonstrated the other evening when second and third generation dealer fathers and sons put on a round table presentation. Vince Sheehy of Sheehy Auto Stores, with third generation dealer pedigree himself, emceed a lively conversation with Chip Lindsay and his Dad, Terry, of Lindsay Automotive, joined by Geoff Pohanka and his Dad, Jack, of Pohanka Automotive. Washingtonês car business history, indeed, came to life with the many rich stories from men who were there to make it happen for the industry, and whose sons advanced the effort by seizing upon the success and expanding it.

The experiences of the roundtable presenters stood replicated at dealer tables across the ballroom where dealer families were similarly engaged along with the many first generation operators, the sum and substance of whom make the Washington area one of the strongest car markets in the U.S., tangibly evidenced by The Washington Auto Show which the global auto industry has recognized as one of the foremost in the world because of the business the dealers do here.

Others on hand or on video contributing to the program before and after dinner included a distinguished line up of public officials and industry leaders from Congress, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and places well beyond the Capital Beltway, including: Steny Hoyer, minority whip, U.S. House of Representatives; Rep. Gerry Connolly; Rep. Chris Van Hollen; Mike Miller, president of the Maryland Senate; greetings from DC Mayor Vincent Gray and longtime DC Councilmen Jack Evans and Vince Orange; Mike Jackson, CEO of Auto Nation; Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; and Rod Alberts, director, North American International Auto Show. The comedy, at Mr. Murphyês expense, was provided by Dennis Jungmeyer, CAE, president, Arkansas Auto Dealers Association, who, besides being a past chairman of the Automotive Trade Associations, is a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives where he, Murphy and others are part of a think-tank style organization for the association management profession.

When that point in the evening came for the ceremonial hand off of –the key to the corner office,” Mr. Murphy praised his successor, John OêDonnell, whom he credited with successfully reorganizing WANADAês Group Insurance Operations before becoming executive vice president where –he has consistently performed with big picture thinking, strong interpersonal skills and the capacity to effectively bring people together in a common cause.”

Waxing philosophically over his years as CEO at WANADA, Murphy pointed to viable working relationships as indispensable to success. –Whether itês success in the automobile business, association management, politics, or in the family and with friends, the positive relationships you build with people is how things get done, but more importantly, itês how people will think about and remember you,” he said. –Mike Murphy taught me that before I went to work for him and he was my hero,” Gerard Murphy concluded.

WANADA salutes the following sponsors of the

evening marking

The –Passing of the Key to the Corner Office” and

Celebration of 82 years of the

automobile business in Washington



Mike Jackson, CEO


Apple Ford Lincoln

Chevy Chase Automotive

Fitzgerald Auto Mall

King Automotive Group

Ourisman Companies

Ourisman Automotive of Virginia

Rosenthal Automotive

Sheehy Auto Stores

Sport Automotive


Alexandria Hyundai

Brown Automotive Group LTD

Charapp & Weiss LLP

Chesapeake Petroleum & Supply

Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell P.C.

Hamilton and Hamilton

Jim Koons Automotive

John OêDonnell & Family

Lindsay Automotive

Pomerance & Associates

Safford Automotive Group

SunTrust Bank

Yoffe Exposition Services, Inc.

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