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Rodney G. Wilhelm
Don Wilhelm Inc.
Jamestown, North Dakota
“Whether it's helping generations of the same family buy a car or helping a stranded motorist with the immediate need to get back on the road, there is great satisfaction, day after day, in providing the best service to our community.”
“Whether it's helping generations of the same family buy a car or helping a stranded motorist with the immediate need to get back on the road, there is great satisfaction, day after day, in providing the best service to our community,” nominee Wilhelm said. “It always comes back to assisting our customers and welcoming new customers.”
A 1974 graduate of Jamestown High School in Jamestown, Wilhelm earned a B.A. in business administration from the University of Jamestown, also in Jamestown, in 1979. He always knew he wanted to enter the family’s car dealership. “My dad, Don Wilhelm, a 2004 TIME Dealer of the Year recipient, started the business in 1961,” he explained. “I spent free time at the dealership as a child sweeping floors and cleaning the showroom, preparing myself for my much-desired future in the automobile business.”
Since 1974, he worked in various capacities, managing the service department, warranties and sales before being named dealer principal, the title he holds today. “A successful business is not accomplished by one; it is a team effort by many,” Wilhelm said. “The team consists of my brother, Jeff, and sister, Lisa, who are partners with me in the family business. We also have numerous employees that have worked at the dealership for decades. The longevity of our employees has been the force behind our business thriving for the past 56 years. We pride ourselves on repeat business, taking care of many generations over the years.”
He also successfully overcame difficult personal challenges. “In 1982, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression,” he said. “This was not part of my career plan. Through the dedication and the support of family and friends — and my strong faith — I was able to be successful. This has been my greatest achievement and an inspiration to others with mental illness.”
A parishioner at St. James Catholic Church in Jamestown and a longtime member of his community, Wilhelm is active in many organizations, including the Elks Lodge, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Knights of Columbus, National Buffalo Museum, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ducks Unlimited. He estimates he contributes to about 77 groups annually, including Great Plains Food Bank; Salvation Army; Jamestown Regional Medical Center; St. John's Academy in Jamestown; Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, which provides support for individuals with developmental disabilities; American Cancer Society Relay for Life; All Vets Club in Jamestown, a veterans group, and the University of Jamestown. And he is active in supporting Huntington’s disease research.
Wilhelm was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Matthew C. Larsgaard, president and CEO of the Automobile Dealers Association of North Dakota. He and his wife, Sandra, have two children.