Dean Sides is one of a select group of 49 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 107th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 3, 2024.
The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. The award recognizes the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service. Sides was chosen to represent the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association in the national competition – one of only 49 auto dealers nominated for the 55th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.
“Coming from a humble beginning, I always felt I wanted to do something to help people in similar situations,” nominee Sides said. “The auto industry has given me that opportunity, and it has been rewarding to help our employees and their families enjoy better lives.”
Sides grew up in southeastern Missouri and learned the importance of hard work and perseverance while helping his parents on their family farm. In 1981, he earned a B.S. in agriculture from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where he also minored in business and achieved a 3.7 GPA.
His first job out of school was at the McDonald Equipment Company in Newport, which encompassed a farm equipment business, Chevrolet-Buick dealership, and a working farm that produced rice, soybeans and wheat.
“I managed the farming operation and sold equipment before I was asked to be general manager of McDonald Chevrolet Buick in 1986,” Sides said, “This began my lifelong career in the automotive industry.”
For four years, Sides oversaw strong growth at the dealership, winning numerous awards from Chevrolet. In 1990, he was asked by George Kell Sr., the Hall of Fame baseball player and owner of George Kell Motors, to join his team and become a managing partner with a 50 percent stake. Sides accepted the offer and became the sole owner of the dealership in 2005.
Sides moved the dealership from its original downtown location to a larger, newly built facility on the interstate in 2016 to increase access, showroom space and service capabilities. His son, Elliot, runs that store as general manager. In 2023, he added to his portfolio by acquiring the Ford dealership next to his current store, now called George Kell Ford.
“Our employees are our most important asset, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the loyal and dedicated team at George Kell Motors,” he said. “They share our unwavering commitment to going the extra mile for customers and the community.”
Sides has held leadership positions on the boards of several local groups and currently serves the Newport Economic Development Commission (chair), Newport Area Chamber of Commerce, Moving Jackson County Forward, Newport Country Club and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“I have been on the board of the Newport Economic Development Commission since its inception in 2002, and I am proud of the impact we have made,” he said. “We worked hard to create over 2,700 jobs in the local area. This has not only helped the economy of my small community but has benefitted thousands of families who now can provide for the people they care about.”
Sides also puts the focus on children through his philanthropic endeavors. He has provided books, educational materials and funding for local public schools, as well as offering scholarships to graduating high school students.
Geroge Kell Motors is the site for several different community events, including an annual car show that benefits the Jackson County Humane Society, luncheons for first responders, food drives and Veterans Day activities that feature complimentary oil changes and free coffee and donuts for area veterans.
Dealers are nominated by the executives of state and metro dealer associations around the country. 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. Three finalists will receive $5,000 for their favorite charities and the winner will receive $10,000 to give to charity, donated by Ally.
In its 13th year as exclusive sponsor, Ally also will recognize dealer nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s 501(c)3 charity of choice. Nominees will be recognized on AllyDealerHeroes.com, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of TIME Dealer of the Year nominees.
“At TIME, we are proud to uphold the decades-long tradition of honoring automotive dealers who make a positive impact and show dedication to their communities through our TIME Dealer of the Year award,” said TIME CEO Jessica Sibley. “We are excited to keep this tradition of applauding these community contributions together with our partners at Ally.”
Doug Timmerman, president of dealer financial services, Ally, said, “Auto dealers nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to not only the industry but to their respective communities through volunteerism, sponsorships, and supporting charitable causes, no matter the market climate. Whether their clients are purchasing a first car or upgrading for a growing family, these selected dealers have successfully extended their relationships beyond the showroom and have been steadfast in driving their communities forward.”
Sides was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Greg Kirkpatrick, president of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife Cindy have three children.