New executive director Rick Johnson leads CAA into new age
With 40-plus years of experience in the collision repair industry, as well as an officer for the California Autobody Association (CAA) for many years, Rick Johnson was recently named as the new executive director for the 53-year-old organization.
As the former owner of B&J Body Shop with two locations in Rancho Cordova and Folsom, Johnson has played a wide range of leadership roles in CAA since 1980 and is highly respected for his work on behalf of body shop owners statewide.
In December 2017, Don Feeley stepped down from the CAA Executive Committee to become the volunteer non-paid interim executive director while an ad hoc committee was formed to search for a permanent full-time executive director. The position was vacated when Executive Director David McClune stepped down after 17 years of service to focus on his health and family.
Johnson owned B&J for 35 years before selling the business to his managers in 2009 and then stepped away from the collision repair industry on a semi-retired basis. One decade later, he is re-entering the fray with a re-energized vision and a new set of CAA directives, an organization he served in several leadership capacities for more than 25 years.
Now CAA’s new chief information officer (CIO), Feeley will continue much of the work he began as an interim director and will work closely with Johnson in every aspect of the organization.
“We’ve already come a long way within the last six months to embrace the technology that is available to us. This involves working closely with web developers and communications consultants to create a portal that can help us to get the word out more efficiently. Dinner meetings have a useful purpose, but we need a more immediate way of conveying information to our members and make it easier for them to be involved. If we can videotape a meeting and make it available to all of our members, that’s one step in the right direction and part of our overall plan this year and beyond.”
Johnson will tap into his CAA experience (president in 1999 and board member for eight years), along with his business acumen to take the organization to its next level. He stepped away from the day-to-day operation of his shops when he sold them, but has always been involved in CAA and ran its CARPAC for the past 10 years.
He has seen the collision repair industry evolve firsthand and knows that if CAA is to continue on its road to ongoing success, it all starts at the local level.
“When I was the president of CAA, we had 17 chapters and some are thriving while others are currently dormant,” Johnson said. “In each region, it comes down to who is willing and available to volunteer their time to run the chapter, and that’s why we’re going to be providing them with some strong support. To do this, we will have our two regional reps (Cindy Shillito in Southern California and Pete Bezeck in Northern California) play bigger roles.
“We want all of our chapters to know they are not out there all alone, so supporting them is a major priority. We realize body shop owners and managers are very busy people, so one of our goals is to better accommodate our chapter leaders and set them up for success.”
Johnson will initially focus on forging stronger relationships with MSOs and providing a consistent message to all of its members.
“When we do our legislative work in conjunction with our lobbyist, Jack Molodanof, for example, every one of the 6,300 body shops in this state benefits from our efforts,” he said. “So, we’re going to re-ignite the conversation with the MSOs and find a way to be effective together.
“In the end, we’re all in the same boat regardless of our size, and CAA is in a prime position to help us all and strengthen the industry as well.”