Dale Martin Hangs it up after 40 Years with GM
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – After 40 years of working for General Motors and 23 years working for Cutshaw Chevrolet, Dale Martin has decided it’s time to retire.
On his last day of work, The Messenger spoke to Martin about his career with GM, his retirement and his plans for the future.
“I’ve been with Cutshaw Chevrolet for 23 years and I’ve been with General Motors for right at 40. Before here, I worked at a couple of different dealerships,” Martin said. “Mostly at Hickman Olds Cadillac. I was there for 15 years. I came to Cutshaw’s in 1996.”
Asked why he had decided to retire, Martin smiled and said, “I’m pushing 66-years-old! It’s just time. I want to enjoy my life a little bit. I’ve got all my ducks in a row, my wife (Karen) is retiring next February so she and I will be able to do some stuff we’ve always wanted to do.”
One of the things Martin said he and his wife would like to do is explore the United States and Texas.
“We’re not going to go out of the country. There are so many places in the United States we’ve never seen. For the longest, we couldn’t afford it. But now, we’re going to go places like the Grand Canyon. We’re going to go down the Mississippi River on one of those (paddle wheel) boats. Both of us are from Florida, so Florida’s not a big deal to us,” Martin said.
Questioned as to how he made it from Florida to Grapeland, Martin explained his father was originally from Buffalo and after living in Florida for many years, his mom and dad returned home to Leon County.
“After that, my brothers and sisters moved to Texas. I was the lone survivor down in West Palm Beach. When I married my wife, stuff was getting bad in Florida with Jamaican gangs, so I said let’s move to Texas, everybody else is there. We moved to Texas and shopped around. We liked Palestine and we’ve been there ever since. That was back in the 1980s,” he explained.
While Martin’s experience will be missed, his customer service skills will be missed even more. The soon to be retired service manager was selected as one of the top 50 service managers in the United States last year.
“That’s out of 4,210 dealerships. I was one of the top 50. I was number 18 on the list. They flew me out to Las Vegas where we spent four days and got some nice little prizes,” he said.
Martin added he had been selected as the number one service manager seven times for dealerships of comparable sizes to Cutshaw Chevrolet.
He explained the dealerships are grouped together with 40 or 50 others of similar sizes “… and like I said with Cutshaw’s, you can’t ask for anyone better. They won’t have any problems without me. Jesse (Coker) is excellent. He’s marked close to 10 years here. He is one of the best service writers – and I’ve had a bunch – he’s the best service writer I’ve ever had.”
As he continued, Martin reflected back on when he was first hired.
“The newer people around here, never met Mrs. C (Jesselyn Cutshaw). Mrs. C was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known in my life. When she passed away, it hurt big time. She was the one who hired me here. She told me to come look at the dealership, opened the books up for me and said you decide. I’ve been here ever since,” Martin said with a smile.
With Friday being his last day, Martin was asked what his plans for Monday were.
“I’m sure I’ll probably bounce out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, thinking I’m going to work. One guy told me I would get ready for work and start to drive off in my vehicle before I realized what I was doing. It’s going to be quite interesting. I’m not sure,” he said.
Coker, Martin’s right-hand man for the last several years, will be taking Martin’s place after Friday and he spoke very highly of his boss and friend.
“I’ve been working with Dale for nearly 10 years. We worked side-by-side for 10 years and we only had two arguments. We worked very well together. We had fun. I enjoyed working with him and I regret he’s leaving. It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m excited for him but at the same time – I’ll cry. I will definitely miss him. He has become one of my best friends in my life. He is an extraordinary person.”
“He has grown the service department into something beyond our imagination as far as the quality of work that’s coming out and the folks he has brought in. The technicians he has brought in have all been because of him. He has a reputation of quality, taking care of our customers and consistency. He has gotten all of our technicians ASE certified. He’s been a Mark of Excellence through GM for 20 years. That’s the highest level you can get with GM in the service department,” Cutshaw said.
“He has taken it (the service department) up to a point, where a dealership this small –this size – it’s unusual,” he continued. “He’s done a great job and we’re going to miss him.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.