TIME magazine cover, that reads 2021 dealer of the year award, featuring Rick De Silva Jr. from Emerson, New Jersey. The image image also says 2021 TIME dealer of the year, next to the magazine.

Every year, Ally, TIME and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) come together to recognize and celebrate the various ways auto dealers across the U.S. are making an impact in the showroom and beyond. This year, Rick DeSilva, Jr., of Liberty Subaru was the recipient of the TIME Dealer of the Year Award — and it’s easy to see why.

Rick is passionate about creating an amazing customer experience within the family of dealerships he co-owns with his father and brother. But he’s also dedicated to uplifting his community (which just so happens to be where he grew up), by showing up for and contributing to the futures of those around him.

A full circle story

Growing up in Mahwah, New Jersey, Rick got his first taste of being in the auto industry by helping his father at the family’s Subaru dealership. After leaving for college and working in different areas of the country for several years, he returned back to his hometown to follow in his dad’s footsteps — in more ways than one.

“You always look for good examples to emulate in life, and growing up, I had the best ones. My dad was a volunteer fireman and now serves on the town’s zoning board, and my mom has been on the board of health for around 30 years,” says Rick. “My parents were always involved, so for me, it’s important to follow their lead and show up for my community.”

Since 2012, Rick has been a member of the Mahwah Board of Education and currently serves as first vice president. Not only have the past eight years given him the chance to contribute to the schools where his three daughters are enrolled, he’s able to give back to the schools he attended himself.

Among his accomplishments with the board, Rick has been involved in expanding bus services to an underserved area of town and improving facilities, building a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Center, and most recently, bringing students and staff back to school safely during the pandemic.

“It’s really special to have the opportunity to have gone through and graduated from this school system. Now my work is focused on giving today’s students the same or an even better experience than I had,” says Rick.

Small business, big impact

Rick’s commitment to giving back also shines through his work at Liberty Subaru, where his dealership is involved in a number of charitable efforts, including hosting annual pet adoption events and supporting Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon, Special Olympics New Jersey Torch Run, Jersey Cares Coat Drive, the Valerie Fund (a nonprofit that aids children with cancer and blood disorders), Ramapo College Foundation, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Bergen Highlands Ramsey Rotary Gift of Life and other organizations.

“Being a local business — and not just an automotive one— gives you a great opportunity to connect with your community as a whole. You rarely see a huge national chain store making donations to a local school foundation or sponsoring a little league team,” says Rick. “That’s something we do get to do.”

Rick is always looking for ways to support and improve the area he’s called home for most of his life and being a part of a local business has empowered him to do so in many unexpected ways.

“We were able to replace an old scoreboard in a park that hadn’t worked since I was a kid,” Rick says. “Doing so made such a positive difference in the way the park, its fields, and the area of town looks and feels.”

In it for the long-term

While Rick’s work in the community has taken on many different forms, he doesn’t see his involvement ending any time soon.

“It’s hard to say what the future holds once my daughters graduate and someone takes my place on the school board,” Rick says. “But one thing I really enjoy is supporting my professional community.”

As the co-founder of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers’ NextGen Committee, Rick is able to empower the next generation of auto dealers in his state. He regularly advocates for New Jersey car and truck dealers to ensure his peers are supported by their representatives in Washington.

“It’s a really special thing to be a part of a family business with my dad and brother. We spend a lot of time and energy ensuring we do things the right way,” Rick says. “As a car dealer, I feel a responsibility to be a positive asset to my community and my profession.”

As a sponsor of the TIME Dealer of the Year program, Ally provides grants to eligible nonprofit organizations selected by the nominees, finalists and winner. It’s important that we recognize and empower business owners, like Rick DeSilva, Jr., who go above and beyond in their community to make a social impact.

Learn more about the TIME Dealer of the Year program.

Meet the 2021 finalists