Attendees of the Oct. 31 Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Las Vegas paused from a busy agenda to bid a fond farewell to National Auto Body Council (NABC) Executive Director and founder Chuck Sulkala, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“Chuck’s been Mr. Everything to our industry,” CIC Administrator Jeff Hendler said. “He taught many of you in ARMS seminars. He’s helped found all the acronyms that you pay attention to everyday: NABC, SCRS, CIECA. If you can name an acronym, he was in the room when it started.”
Sulkala is retiring after 22 years as executive director of the NABC, which runs Recycled Rides and other programs that highlight the compassion and professionalism of the collision repair industry.
Sulkala helped launch the organization in 1994, at a time when the industry was trying to distance itself from “the ghost of ‘Bondo Billy,’ patron saint of the bad old days of collision repair,” according to the NABC website.
“Joey Buttafuoco was a hot topic on the late-night talk shows around then,” Sulkala recalls on the NABC website. “And I remembered back some 20 years before when my dad came back to the office one morning after an evening meeting saying, ‘Someone’s really got to do something about the image of the industry.’ And that was 20 years before I even started thinking about starting NABC.”
Among his numerous other leadership positions in the collision repair industry, Sulkala has served as chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), chairman of I-CAR, chairman of the Collision Industry Conference as well as chairman of numerous CIC committees.
In addition to his industry advocacy, Sulkala has been at the helm of his family business, ACME Body & Paint in Boston, for decades.
“January will be the celebration of my 50th anniversary of receiving a paycheck in this industry,” an emotional Sulkala said.
“ … It’s been a great ride.”
Sulkala admitted he was at a loss for words.
“At any rate, life moves on,” Sulkala said. “It’s time to do some other things.”
As the CIC attendees gave him a standing ovation, someone in the audience shouted, “We love you, Chuck.”
Sulkala’s many recognitions over the years include a BodyShop Business Executive of the Year Award.