After a 44-year career with Chrysler vehicles and products, starting as a 16-year-old on a high school work experience placement with A. Miller Farm Equipment that led to a summer job in the parts department and then a full-time job at the dealership, Dwight Brown has decided to change gears.
He sold his Brown’s Chrysler dealership in mid-March and has moved on to what he calls “retirement.”
But those who know Dwight know full well both he and his wife Terry will remain active in other areas, serving the community in various volunteer positions.
He is currently president of the Westlock and District Community Hall board, and an active member of the Westlock Rotary Club, which recently hosted this year’s Rotary District 5370 Conference, which the couple were very involved in the organization and planning.
Born and raised in the Westlock area, the eldest child of Doug and Vera Brown, Dwight spent his early years learning the value of hard work on his parent’s dairy farm south of Westlock next to what is today Highway 44.
But back to those beginning days of his summer job in the parts department, he was only on the job a week when the manager went on holidays, and he was left in charge.
After high school, he was offered a full-time job at the dealership in the sales department and sold a new 1977 Chrysler New Yorker in his first hour as a salesman.
Dwight continued to work in sales while earning his parts technician journeyman status at NAIT in Edmonton.
When Albert Miller wanted to expand his farm division’s space and devote his time to the farm equipment business, the Chrysler franchise became available, and with Chrysler’s approval, Dwight became, at age 24, one of the youngest dealers in Canada.
He opened his business in September 1981 in a 7,000-square foot building on two acres of property on the west side of Westlock with seven employees.
In 2006, with an ever-growing business and needing more space, he moved back to the same property adjacent to Highway 44 where he began his working career as a teenager.
Renovating a portion of the dealership at the back and adding new office and showroom space at the front, the new 26,000 square-foot location was opened on the 25th anniversary of Brown’s Chrysler, with the grand opening following on his 50th birthday. And from a small staff of seven, the business now employed 25.
In the fall of 2013, he received the prestigious 2013 Alberta Dealer of Excellence Award in the Non-Metro Category from the Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta (MDA).
Those who receive the award, which is the MDA’s highest honour, are nominated by their peers, and the final selection is made by a panel of past award winners.
When Dwight received the Dealer of Excellence award, Rex Dawson, former owner of the Ford dealership in Westlock and a former award recipient himself, noted, “What an honour! And whether you know it or not, when you’re in the car business, the better the dealer next to you, the better it is for you. So I want to say to you, Dwight, you’re a credit to the community, a credit to the province and a credit to yourself and your family. Thanks so much for what you do.”
While Dwight’s presence on the main floor in the dealership will be missed, things will look pretty much the same, as all current employees are staying on and the name of the dealership undergoing only a minor change.
Just recently, he was nominated for the Laureate Award and the outcome of that is still to be determined.
Over the years, Dwight has always felt there should be job opportunities for young people coming out of high school locally, and has promoted that as much as he could. He has been a member of the Westlock Chamber of Commerce and was president of that organization.
He has also been a member of the Westlock Rotary Club for close to 30 years and a past president of the club, and has always been very actively involved in whatever projects the club has taken on. That includes the Westlock Rotary Spirit Centre, the largest project the club has taken on.
Beyond Westlock, he has served as a director of the Alberta Chrysler Dealer Advertising Association and Chrysler National Council for over 20 years and a director of the MDA for over 20 years, representing the MDA on the Tire Recycling Board.
While he and Terry will do some travelling, including visiting some former Rotary Youth Exchange individuals in the coming months, Westlock will continue to be home. And he and Terry will no doubt continue to be involved in Rotary and other community activities.
But Dwight doesn’t take all the credit for his success. He points to both his grandpa Sterling and grandpa Brown, as part of the inspiration for his strong work ethic.
He was also inspired by his parents, Doug and Vera Brown, and all the energy they have put into the Westlock and District Ag Society over many years.
“I think it’s part of my DNA to have some involvement in the community,” he says.
“And of course, when I grew up, I wanted to be Albert Miller.”
Albert Miller was another strong mentor on Dwight’s road up the ladder as a successful local businessman. He also gives credit to the Arth family for their support through the years, and also to his wife, Terry.
“I’m pleased with what my career has brought me,” he said recently.
Yes, Dwight may have hung up the keys on his dealership, but he has a new set of keys which he will use to open doors of many volunteer opportunities, and continue to give back to the community which has given to him his career opportunities.
Dwight wishes Chris Semple, the new owner of the dealership, all the best.