Jonesborough’s town garage wins national recognition

Sue Guinn Legg • Aug 10, 2013 at 9:49 PM

Jonesborough’s Fleet Services Department is on a roll.

For the second consecutive year, Government Fleet Magazine has included the department in its list of the top 100 public automotive fleets in North America.

Shop Supervisor Gary Lykins was one of 16 government fleet managers nominated for the magazine’s 2013 Fleet Manager of the Year Award.

And for the fourth time since 2010, the department’s mechanics have been awarded the distinguished Blue Seal of Excellence from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.

In this year’s 100 Best Fleets list, the department more commonly known as the “town garage” was ranked 88th. While the ranking was down from the 59th place on the top 100 list earned by the department in 2012, Lykins said the drop could be interpreted to mean “even though we have improved our operation, others have improved more.”

The only other fleet services department in Tennessee included in the top 100 was the Knoxville Utility Board, which placed 97th.

“The 100 Best Public Fleets program exists as a way to share the best practices in fleet management,” Lykins said. “With fleets as large as the New York City police department and the city of Chicago participating in the contest, it is especially significant for an operation such as Jonesborough’s fleet to be ranked among them.”

The competition is judged by managers of public fleets that have previously been ranked No. 1 among the top 100 in North America. Each fleet is scored in 10 areas of expertise using industry benchmarks and established best practices.

Lykins said the consultation and constructive criticism that comes from being judged by “the most respected fleet professionals in the industry” is invaluable to both the department and to the town, and insures the return on public funds used for upkeep of the town’s vehicles and heavy equipment meets the most stringent industry standards.

The 2013-14 ASE Blue Seal of Excellence, which was awarded to the department for the fourth time this year, is part of the ASE’s technician- certification program and is based on the individual proficiency of department’s technicians in eight categories of automotive and heavy equipment repair.

Both Lykins and Technician Tommy Norton are master certified in light duty automobile repair, while the third member of their three-man crew, Technician Jerry Davis, is certified in heavy truck repair. For the first time this year, the award also required certification of a service consultant, which Lykins has held for more than 10 years.

While the Blue Seal is awarded to both public and private fleet divisions, Lykins said Jonesborough’s is the only Blue Seal-certified public fleet in Northeast Tennessee and one of only four public or private fleets east of Knoxville to hold the designation.

“To be recognized among our peers in this highly technical industry gives credit to the town of Jonesborough as a whole and exemplifies the high bar of excellence set by our administration and elected officials,” Lykins said. “Certainly, you can’t do this without good leadership.”

As for his own leadership, Lykins was among 16 finalists selected in Government Fleet Magazine’s Fleet Manager of the Year essay contest that requires fleet department managers to spell out their vision for excellence within their departments.

“Fleet mechanics and fleet management is a lot of knowing when to fix and when not to fix,” he said. “Like right now, Jerry is fixing a backhoe bucket rather than paying $1,800 for a new one. We can put $8 or $10 of metal and a little welding on it and it becomes a real benefit.

“A lot of time, it comes down to just hard numbers. You have to evaluate equipment as it is and decide if its worth repairing or if its time to get rid of it.”

As a finalist in the manager of the year competition, Lykins was invited to speak at the 2013 Government Fleet Expo in San Antonio and to lead a seminar titled “Keys to Successful Communication” that focused on a very familiar theme in Jonesborough, storytelling.

“I was happy to brag on Davy Crockett’s local roots, the rich history of storytelling in our area and our town’s identity as the Storytelling Capital of the World,” he said. “Many were surprised to hear how communicating a good story is necessary in business and professional settings.”

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