Women celebrated at Urban Wheel Awards

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DETROIT -- An impressive group of women were celebrated for their achievements in the auto industry at the 17th Annual Urban Wheel Awards show here Sunday night.

Among those women was my friend and former colleague Kathy Jackson, a veteran journalist who carried home the 2013 Urban Wheel Lifetime Achievement Award.

During her 21 years at Automotive News, Kathy covered many beats, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Volkswagen/Audi and labor. She was the editor of Automotive Marketer, a sibling publication to Automotive News. In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles to cover Asian brand automakers, an assignment she held until she retired in 2010. Kathy’s award was presented by Automotive News Publisher Peter Brown and Motown recording legend Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas.

Kathy embarked on a second career in 2011, when she opened Healthy Dollar, a dollar store in her hometown of Flint, Mich., that sells general merchandise and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Jenell Ross, a dynamic woman I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few years through a series of interviews, is the dealer principal at Bob Ross Auto Group in suburban Dayton, Ohio. She was the recipient of the 2013 Urban Wheel Pioneer of the Year Award.

It took three men to present the award to Jenell: Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association; Bill Underriner, 2012 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.

A second-generation dealer, Jenell is a member of the AIADA and takes over as its 2013 chairwoman on Feb. 11 at the group’s meeting in Orlando.

Jenell became dealer principal of the family-owned dealership group in 1997 at the age of 27 when her father, Robert Ross Sr., died. She operated the business with her mother until Norma Ross died in 2010.

Ross and her brother, Robert Jr., who is vice president of fixed operations, manage Bob Ross Buick-GMC and Mercedes-Benz of Centerville, started by their father, and Bob Ross Fiat, added in 2011. Their father was the first black Mercedes-Benz dealer in the United States, according to Mercedes-Benz USA.

Three women took home 2013 Dealer of the Year awards in recognition of their achievements in sales, service, customer relations and an overall commitment to excellence. The recipients were selected by local and national minority business and trade organizations.

Kathy Jackson's award was presented by Automotive News publisher Peter Brown, right, and Motown recording legend, Martha Reeves, left, of Martha and The Vandellas.

They are:

-- Gail Burrus Martin, CEO of Martin Management Group in Bowling Green, Ky.

-- Lori Lum Toyooka, president and general manager of Lum’s Auto Center in Warrenton, Ore.

-- Evelyn Chatel, co-owner of Freedom Toyota-Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Urban Wheel Awards ceremony was sponsored by Decisive Media, publisher of auto and other publications for the multicultural market.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com.

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