As a third-generation car dealer, Gary Ackerman started at his family business when he was 16. “I had the good luck of being mentored by three great Ford dealers in my career, my grandfather, George Gaudin, my first boss, Bert Boeckmann of Galpin Ford, and my father, Don Ackerman,” he said.
Ackerman earned a B.S. from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, in 1974. Rather than return to Las Vegas after college, he opted to stay in California, where he secured a position in sales at Galpin Ford in the Los Angeles area.
In 1980, he moved back to Las Vegas and was named sales manager at Gaudin Ford. When his father suffered a stroke in 1983 and was out of work for more than a year, Ackerman became interim general manager and served in that position for 10 years before purchasing the store from his father.
Today, Gaudin Motor Company also includes Gaudin Porsche of Las Vegas and Ford Country in Henderson, Nevada. Ackerman’s son Andrew now works at Gaudin Porsche of Las Vegas and his son Evan Ellis is beginning his career at a Honda dealership.
“I had the great fortune of growing up and living in the Las Vegas community all of my life,” he said. “The opportunity to serve our community and our clients over the last 40- plus years while our city grew around us, created a great platform for our growth and success. I am blessed to have a fabulous family of fellow workers, many of whom have been with us for more than 30 years.”
A 22-year member of the board of directors of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association, where he served as president twice, Ackerman sees the importance of being an advocate for the industry and his community.
“We are all involved in our own stores, but we also need to make our communities better places to live, even if that means getting involved in politics,” he said. “If we aren't willing to roll up our sleeves and work at it, we shouldn't complain when things don’t go the way we wish.”
One of his most significant contributions is his work for the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation and the creation of the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation Ackerman Center in Las Vegas, which provides clinical services, support and vocational programs for families affected by autism, in an alliance with UNLV Health (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). Grant a Gift just held their 11th annual gala, on the field at the new Allegiant Stadium, and raised $1.5 million dollars that will go directly to the center and its services.
“We have a son on the autism spectrum so making a difference in the services provided to families dealing with this malady became an obvious goal,” Ackerman said. “Since opening in 2015, the center has served more than 5,000 families that had nowhere else to turn.”
He also serves on the boards of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation and the advisory council for the Nevada Medical Center.
“My father was on the board of trustees at UNLV for decades and I was honored to take his seat when he passed,” Ackerman said. “He always told me that it was our responsibility to give back to the town that provided such a great home for us. I hope that our efforts to support education and healthcare will continue to help the Las Vegas community be a better place in the future.”
Ackerman was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Andrew MacKay, executive director of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association. He and his wife, Debra, have three children.