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Mike Whatley Honda
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my retail automotive career has been the relationships I have made with customers, employees and peers over the past 30 years.”
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my retail automotive career has been the relationships I have made with customers, employees and peers over the past 30 years,” nominee Whatley said.
A 1979 graduate of Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana, Whatley studied business at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Virginia, while serving in the United States Army as an air traffic controller from 1980 to 1986.
“I served as tower chief at the Pentagon in 1985 during the Reagan administration,” Whatley said. “While serving, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and two Army Good Conduct Medals, along with being awarded Soldier of the Year for Washington D.C. 5th Signal Command.” He was also stationed in Germany, monitoring flight operations, and is a licensed pilot.
After leaving the Army, Whatley took a job at an auto dealership in Alexandria, Virginia, while waiting for an opening as an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration. “I thought it would be temporary,” he said. “Once I sold my first car, something happened inside me, a feeling that I still get to this day. I was hooked.” He became salesman of the year during his first year and was promoted to finance manager, before moving back to Louisiana due to a family illness.
From 1988 to 2006, Whatley worked at Barker Automotive Group in Houma, moving up the ladder to sales manager. He then agreed to purchase and become dealer manager at Barker Automotive’s Honda store in Brookhaven, eventually rebranding it as Mike Whatley Honda in 2012. “Just over a year later, I began renovating and construction on the first Honda Generation III facility in Mississippi,” he said.
Currently, Whatley is president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and is on the economic development board for the city and county. He served on the board of the King's Daughters Medical Center Foundation and supports the foundation’s 1914 Club, which raises funds for the medical center. An active member of the Rotary Club of Brookhaven-Lincoln County and a Paul Harris Fellow, Whatley has also provided his leadership to the United Way of Lincoln County as a board member. In addition, he served as chairman of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association and currently serves as immediate past chairman.
Whatley combines his passion for cars with his civic responsibility by working with the automotive technology program at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, located in Wesson, Natchez and Simpson, Mississippi. “I am on the program’s advisory board and have supported the college with grants to buy high-tech simulators and training vehicles for students,” he said. He also started a mentor program at his dealership in 2015 for an automotive technology student to work alongside a master technician while getting paid.
In addition, Whatley is also proud to give back to the girls’ basketball team at Bogue Chitto High School in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, by organizing an annual basketball game between his dealership and the high school’s faculty and coaches. “The game raises money for the team’s summer basketball camp,” he said.
Whatley was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Marty Milstead, president of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Pat, have two children and three grandchildren.