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Willis Chevrolet Buick
"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."
“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,” nominee 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, too, is 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 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, 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.
Willis was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Marlene Lynch-Petrylak, executive director of the Delaware Automobile & Truck Dealers’ Association. He and his wife, Christy, have two children.