Willis is one of a select group of 47 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the National Automobile Dealers Association's 2018 Show March 23. Recipients are among the nation's most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service.
Isaac Willis of Willis Chevrolet Buick in Smyrna has been nominated for the 2018 TIME Dealer of the Year award.
The award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. Recipients are among the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service.
The announcement was made Dec. 4 by Meredith Long, senior vice president and general manager at TIME, and Tim Russi, president of auto finance for Ally Financial.
Willis is one of a select group of 47 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2018 NADA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada March 23.
“We salute this exceptional group of nominees for the 2018 TIME Dealer of the Year award,” Russi said. “These dealers are local pillars of strength, leadership and giving, and Ally is proud to celebrate their stories and recognize them for their commitment to ‘do it right’ in their communities.”
In its seventh year as exclusive sponsor, Ally will recognize dealer nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s 501(c)3 charity of choice. Nominees will also be recognized on AllyDealerHeroes.com, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of TIME Dealer of the Year nominees.
Willis, 43, was chosen to represent the Delaware Automobile & Truck Dealers’ Association in the national competition – one of only 47 auto dealers from more than 16,500 nationwide – nominated for the 49th annual award. He was nominated by Marlene Lynch-Petrylak, executive director of the Delaware Automobile & Truck Dealers’ Association.
A panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year.
“The most rewarding part of my retail automotive career is seeing how our organization is able to help our employees succeed in all aspects of their lives, be it professionally, financially or, most importantly, within their own families,” Willis said.
A 1993 graduate of Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Willis earned a B.S. in criminal justice from the University of Delaware in Newark in 1997, where he was a member of the University of Delaware Emergency Care Unit, a student-run volunteer ambulance corps.
Willis worked part-time in his family’s dealership until he graduated from college in 1997 and became a full-time employee. He assumed the role of general manager in 2004 and currently serves as the company’s dealer principal.
“I used to ride my bike to work when I was 8 years old to wash cars,” he remembered. “I was changing oil by the time I was 12 years old and have worked in all departments within the dealership.”
Today, he is partners with his father, William H. Willis Jr., in the business founded by his grandfather, William H. Willis Sr., in 1951, making him a third-generation dealer at Willis Chevrolet Buick.
“Watching our employees be successful within our dealership is very satisfying, and as a result, we are pleased that they can also give back to their communities and various organizations that are important to them,” he said.
Willis is also committed to his community and has been a member of the Smyrna volunteer fire company, Citizens’ Hose Company No. 1, for 27 years.
“I was a fire officer for 12 years before becoming fire chief in 2012” he said. “I have also held the offices of lieutenant, captain, second assistant chief and first assistant chief.” He has also served on the company’s board of directors since 2000.
His said his most important civic award is being named Firefighter of the Year in 1993 by the Citizens’ Hose Company No. 1.
“My work as a volunteer firefighter has provided me with the opportunity to make a true difference and positively impact the community that we serve,” he said. “I have responded to thousands of car accidents, medical emergencies, fires and various other emergency situations where I have had the opportunity to assist in life-saving efforts or simply contribute to keeping our community safe.”
Willis has also served on the finance committee for Asbury United Methodist Church in Smyrna, on the advisory board for the Green Beret Project, a youth outreach program, and as chairperson of the capital campaign for the Greater Smyrna Clayton Boys & Girls Club.
“We exceeded our fundraising goal during the 2015 to 2016 campaign,” he said. “I realized what a great organization this was – right in our own backyard – and knew that I wanted to be a part of their mission and success in helping the youth of our community achieve great things.”
In addition, the Willis dealership partners with local high schools to encourage and educate young drivers on driving safely, which includes pledges to not text and drive, or drink and drive.
He and his wife, Christy, have two children.