In Memoriam: Barbara Pomerance

WANADA remembers fondly its public relations advisor of more than thirty years, Barbara Pomerance, who passed away last month from cancer.  WANADA and its new car dealer members were, indeed, fortunate to have benefitted from Barbara’s boundless energy, focused leadership, and second-to-none expertise in all things public relations-related.

It all began at the outset of the 1980s when then-CEO Gerry Murphy brought Barbara on board with WANADA while she was with the Bethesda, Maryland-based agency, Ehrlich-Manes, to commence her distinguished tour of service that ran until her retirement in 2017.   While at Ehrlich-Manes, and subsequently at the agency she founded and owned, Barbara handled everything WANADA did media-wise, which, among other things, included assisting the reinstitution of the Washington DC Auto Show, an event that WANADA had not produced since the 1960s. Over those early years, she was able to leverage the media spotlight on the Washington Auto Show such that its prominence rose to the world-renowned heights it enjoys today. Barbara played an integral role in rebranding the event, which is now universally recognized as one of the foremost industry events of its kind on the international auto show circuit, as the industry’s “public policy show.” And it was a hit, becoming the largest public show in the Washington DC region and enabling WANADA to draw the likes of both reality TV star Snooki and U.S. presidents.  The show routinely hosted U.S. Cabinet Secretaries who, thanks to Barbara’s strategic work, would use it as a platform to release breaking news, further raising the show’s media presence. At the same time, Barbara created the show’s “Hands- On Contest,” a beloved Washington tradition and fan favorite that, in its first incarnation, came down to two military men holding on to a new car in a TV media blitz that drew scores of news reporters to see which of them would take home the trophy of a brand-new car.

“It was the world’s greatest ride at the helm of WANADA with Barbara in the cockpit,” said Murphy, who worked in tandem with her for her entire 30 year tour of service.   “She helped us elevate the profile of WANADA while envisioning the innumerable ways we could strengthen the position of our dealer and automaker stakeholders in conjunction with the Auto Show as a force both regionally and worldwide.”

Barbara’s daughter, Rachel, who worked with her mother for many years, added: “My mother loved the many people and players who came together for WANADA, the electricity of the Washington Auto Show and the limitless opportunities and challenges to help make her most important client seen, heard and proud. WANADA and The Washington Auto Show became part of the fabric of our family and our friendships, and we were all so lucky to be part of it.”

Barbara also put WANADA in the forefront of the national effort to curb drunk driving, which led to WANADA contributing mightily to the rollout of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, or WRAP. That program, in turn, inspired WANADA to create its own Dealers Against Drunk Driving, or DADD, that effectively complemented the start-up of the nationally renowned Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD program.

Over the many years of her affiliation with WANADA as its public relations advisor, Barbara Pomerance consistently was able to keep the regional media in check when consumer news reporters would unfairly portray auto dealers as unresponsive to their customers in retail auto sales and auto service transactions.

WANADA and its dealer members can, indeed, take solace in Barbara’s untimely passing by cherishing the innumerable contributions she consistently delivered to them and to their dealer association in the National Capital Area.  “Barbara Pomerance was truly a one-of-a-kind asset to WANADA in its ongoing and relentless quest to accomplish good things for Washington area new car dealers,” reflected WANADA CEO John O’Donnell, “and this dealer organization will never forget her.”

To Barbara’s husband Leon, daughter Rachel, son Mitch, her grandchildren, and so many friends, WANADA extends its sincerest sympathy.

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