By LISA WHALEY
General Manager & Editor
They are the soldiers behind the services. The warriors behind the sirens.
Yet, for the most part, these unsung heroes who keep Jonesborough rolling along earn few accolades.
That is, until now.
Within a few short weeks, Jonesborough’s city garage has pulled in not one, but two honors. And the men who are responsible for the notice couldn’t be more proud.
“I think if you had come to any of us where we were a little kid and told us we would get to work on cars and dump trucks, that’s exactly what you want to do,” said Jonesborough Fleet Manager Gary Lykins. “And we still get excited about that.”
Lykins, along with fellow technicians Jerry Davis and Shane Atkins, are three of the key figures who keep Jonesborough vehicles on the road. And they’ve been doing their job so well, they were recently designated as one of the 100 Best Fleets in North America, coming in 51st in the list, as part of the National Automotive Fleet Association’s yearly convention in Austin Texas.
“The designation is a competitive comparison if you will, of some of the fleets in north America,” Lykins said. Fleets are judged by 10 criteria of fleet health. Jonesborough has entered the competition in the past and received no recognition, an honorable mention or two and once came it at 89th in the list of 100.
This recognition, he said, is by far the greatest.
He attributes their success to an ongoing emphasis on quality along with doing things the “Jonesborough way” by making every dollar stretch.
“By default, we are very, very thrifty because we don’t’ have a lot of money to throw around,” Lykins said.
The team has also become skilled at keeping various “plates spinning in the air.”
“There’s a proactive and a reactive approach,” he said. “You want to be as proactive as you can without going overboard.”
Technicians must be skilled not only in repairs, but also in keeping an eye on the big picture to minimize problems and avoid excessive down time.
And that, according to Lykins, ties directly to the garage’s second honor – being named by the Automotive Service Excellence) as one of only four ASE Blue Seal Shops in East Tennessee. “The ASE blue Seal award is available to public and non -public shops and we are honored to be the only non-public shop east of Knoxville,” Lykins said. “Ponder Auto Repair, Kar-Pro and American Import are the private shops in Northeast Tennessee. Knox County and V-DOT in Bristol are the closest non-public shops to share this award.”
One of the criteria needed for Blue Seal recognition is certification of staff.
“The Blue Seal Certification is particularly rare because not a lot of people take the time for it,” Lykins said. And It’s another way we check ourselves against the standard.”
In fact, Atkins, who is currently pursuing full certification, was recently named as one of the 40 best technicians under 40 by Government Fleet.
Still, while awards are nice and recognition is always appreciated, that’s not what drives the men at the city garage. It is, according to Davis, the importance of what they do.
“it’s important that Jonesborough’s equipment operators can count on me to help keep them safe,” he said.
Atkins echoes that sentiment.
“I enjoy working on cars. And helping people,” he said. Then he grins. “I never realized how special a police car was until I started working on it. I thought it was a regular car with lights on it.”
But perhaps Lykins explained it best.
“Everything starts with quality,” he said. “We hear the firetruck leave the bay and know that we were the last ones that had the wheel off it. We see a police car going to a crash and we know that it was us that touched that vehicle last. Always a part of us is going to every job.”