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Papik to vie for Dealer of the Year award

LUVERNE -- Gary Papik, owner of Papik Motors of Luverne, is among 57 automobile dealer nominees from across the country to vie for the 2013 TIME Dealer of the Year award.

In a Monday morning announcement, TIME said Papik was nominated for the award by Scott Lambert, executive vice president of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. Papik, who has owned the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, GMC and Jeep dealership in Luverne since 1990, will represent Minnesota dealers at the 96th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention and Exposition Feb. 9, in Orlando, Fla.

The Dealer of the Year announcement will be made during the convention, and Papik said his family, including wife Janine, three children and nine grandchildren will accompany him to the event.

The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry's most prestigious and highly coveted honors, the press release stated. Recipients are among the nation's most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service.

Papik, 61, was chosen to represent the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association in the national competition for the 44th annual award. Just 57 of the nation's 17,000 dealers were nominated. The award is sponsored by TIME in association with Ally Financial, and in cooperation with NADA. A panel of faculty members from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year.

"I believe the most rewarding part of the automobile business is being part of making people so excited about the purchase of a new vehicle," nominee Papik said. "It is such a great feeling to see people so happy and excited, and being able to be part of that process."

Papik graduated from Luverne High School in 1969, and studied business at Bemidji State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato. He always dreamed of owning a dealership.

"When I was in middle-high school, the Oldsmobile dealership was right across the street from the school and it was in my sights all day, every day," Papik said. "As long as I can remember, the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life was be a car dealer and sell Oldsmobiles."

His first job was washing cars at that very dealership.

"I was so excited about working that I told the boss he wouldn't even have to pay me," Papik said. "That's how I started my automobile career. I washed cars and even sold a few until going to college."

After working at a dealership in his college town, he was asked to return to Luverne to run the Oldsmobile business when the owner fell ill. He later negotiated the sale of that business, adding product lines, and then purchased the dealership himself in 1990 after the new owner, who was his greatest mentor, died suddenly in a plane crash. Today, his wife, son, daughters, and their spouses are part of the family enterprise.

"How could anything be any better? I simply owe this business my life." Papik said.

The announcement of this year's nominees was made by Todd Larsen, executive vice president and group president, Time Inc. News and Sports, and Tim Russi, executive vice president, North American Auto Operations, for Ally Financial.

"Auto dealers play such an important role in the strength of local communities across the United States," said Russi in the news release. "They are involved in many philanthropic endeavors, contributing their time and money to improving the lives of people in need. Ally is proud to support and honor these extraordinary dealers and the important roles they play in making their communities better places to live and work," added Russi.

As a nominee, Papik will receive $1,000 to donate to his charity of choice. Though he's planning to pass the funds along to a Luverne charity, he hasn't yet made a final decision.

"This honor would not be possible without our great employees, past and present, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart," he said, adding that he was "completely surprised" by the nomination.

Papik is involved in numerous community programs, serving on Luverne's Initiative For Tomorrow (LIFT, a commercial revitalization project), as well as Luverne Hotel Partners, Luverne Campground committee and Luverne Brewery Group executive committee. He has also contributed his efforts to the Luverne Area Chamber of Commerce, Luverne Hockey Association, Luverne Optimist Club, Luverne Community Economic Development Corporation and numerous other local organizations.

"I've lived my life with a strong Christian faith and devotion to my family, business and community," Papik said. He created the annual Papik Family Music Scholarship given to a deserving Luverne High School senior and donated a fully refurbished grand piano to the historic Palace Theatre, with a dedication concert given by his family members, and a digital bell carillon to Grace Lutheran Church.

"I think the reason why I want to get involved and give something back to the community is that most of my family has stayed right here," Papik said of his involvement as a community leader. "My kids and grandkids are here and I want to give something back to the community. It's been a great place to raise a family."

Papik Motors serves the tri-state area with a continually expanding sales territory. Its growth has been spurred by its relocation near Interstate 90.

Papik's son, Jordan, is sales manager; son-in-law Micky Sehr is fixed operations manager, daughter Heidi Sehr is marketing manager and daughter Gretchen Jepperson manages business communications. Wife Janine also assists with marketing.

Nominees for the national award will also be recognized on, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of auto dealers across the U.S.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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