Debbie Andersen, executive director of the Indiana Independent Automobile Dealers Association, was selected by her peers as NIADA’s 2012 Association Executive of the Year.
Andersen, has headed the IIADA since 2001 after serving six years as the association’s accountant, and has used her background as a CPA to put IIADA in a strong financial position.
"The association was going through hard economic times," said 2011 Executive of the Year Jim Mitchell of Ohio, who presented the award to Andersen during the 66th Annual NIADA Convention & Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
"But today it is on solid financial ground and the association’s membership has grown to its highest level."
The winner is chosen by the executives of the state independent auto dealers associations nationwide.
"I’m very honored," Andersen said, "because it’s a selection by my peers, and to be honored by your peers, I think, is the ultimate in respect."
When Andersen took on the executive director job, she knew from her stint as IIADA’s accountant that getting association’s financial house in order would be her first order of business.
"I knew I was getting into a big financial mess," she said. "That’s why I was brought in to be the CPA in the first place. They were very financially challenged. When the executive director resigned, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’d kind of like to do that.’ And I truly enjoy it."
Andersen cut the association’s expenses and began using fundraising events to increase revenue without raising the members’ dues.
"We cut expenses immediately, and you look for other sources of income," she said. "It sounds simple, but we had to be creative. We had to think outside the box. Dues was not the place to go. We needed to raise money but we didn’t want to do it on the backs of the dealers. And, of course, we also slashed expenses. I didn’t spend if they didn’t have it."
Growing up in the Detroit area, Andersen has been around the car business and car people her entire life. While attending Northern Michigan University, she worked on the assembly line for Federal Mogul, a major parts supplier to auto manufacturers.
"I worked my way through college working in automotive factories," she said. "We made all the plastic parts, like the dash, on injection molding machines. They came off the assembly line and you had to trim all the plastic off of them."
Andersen said the biggest step she has seen IIADA take during her tenure has been in its relationship with the state government.
"We have grown tremendously in recognition within the state government<" she said. "Our state officials, from the governor to the secretary of state to the director of the bureau of motor vehicles, all look to the association now for advice and suggestions, which was not the case when I came on board 11 years ago.
"That is huge. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of."