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“I find it very rewarding to help others become successful in the only industry I’ve ever wanted to work in – retail automotive.”
“I find it very rewarding to help others become successful in the only industry I’ve ever wanted to work in — retail automotive,” nominee Petro said.
A 1981 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Petro studied business management at the University of Southern Mississippi, also in Hattiesburg, where he was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He graduated from the NADA Academy in 1991.
Petro always had an affinity for the car business, an industry that his father, Eddie, who first started selling Chevrolets in 1968, also loved. “At 14 years old in 1977, I worked in the summertime washing cars and doing odd jobs for Dossett Pontiac Cadillac GMC, where my father was the F&I [Finance & Insurance] director,” he remembered. “I often joke that I wrecked my first vehicle on the Dossett car lot when I hooked a rear bumper of one car to a front bumper of another as I was doing ‘lot detail.’”
His father founded Petro Nissan in 1990 and today, Petro is dealer principal. “Because I am a retail car dealer, I now have the ways and means to be able to give back to certain groups and organizations that I have researched and know are doing a great job in furthering humanity in and around my hometown of Hattiesburg and the state of Mississippi,” he said.
A 23-year member of the Sertoma Club of Hattiesburg, Petro is a longtime supporter of the group that works to improve the quality of life for those impacted by hearing loss. He has also contributed to the American Heart Association, including the Greater Hattiesburg Heart Walk; Boy Scouts of America; March of Dimes; Toys for Tots; William Carey University in Biloxi, Mississippi; the University of Southern Mississippi; Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg; Petal Panthers at Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi; and Oak Grove High School, his alma mater, to name a few.
His profession not only has allowed Petro to give back but also has been a source of great comfort during a tragic time in his life. “I lost my wife, Angela Petro, to ovarian cancer in 2009,” he said, explaining that she was hospitalized for two months and then spent 56 days at home under hospice care in the middle of the Great Recession. He added, “Being an automotive retailer gave me the flexibility to take care of my wife and two youngest children. I owe everything to my wonderful employees who took care of our customers while I was away from my office.”
Petro was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Marty Milstead, president of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association. He is a widower with four children.