Frank Hackett: Wrestler, Policeman, Cat Herder

By Tony Moorby September 23, 2021
(L to R): Jack Neshe, Frank Hackett,  Steve DeLuca,  Mike Browning, and Jerry Hinton. (L to R): Jack Neshe, Frank Hackett, Steve DeLuca, Mike Browning, and Jerry Hinton.

Some 21 years ago, when ADT Automotive was sold to Manheim Auctions, I was approached by Warren Young, Manheim’s previous president, and Ruth Hart Stephens who ran their Canadian interests, to become the Executive Director of the National Auto Auction Association. I declined the invitation. 

It wasn’t an instant decision as I gave it a couple of days to consider the opportunity to promote an industry that I dearly loved, admired and believed in to achieve all kinds of new levels of market reach and sophistication.

In the end, I had the notion that the position was akin to that of herding cats. It’s one thing to run a company that has a single-minded philosophy, shared with everyone in the company. To have the authority to ensure that the roadmaps of budgets, marketing, operations and communications are adhered to, altering course as necessary to grow and prosper are as exhilarating, exciting and rewarding as anything I can think of.

The demands on an association director are myriad and it is a rare bird that fulfills every requirement efficiently and successfully. Frank Hackett has been doing that superbly well for the last 17 years and is now retiring.

In essence, the CEO of the National Auto Auction Association must have an ear to the concerns of every member; there are about 360 now, including international members. On top of that, he has to be in tune with the fancies and foibles of customers from used car dealers to major corporations. All this on the shifting sands of an industry that has evolved at breakneck speed from being a quiet, behind-the-scenes redistribution facility to a modern, megalithic, digitally driven powerhouse of transactions and transportation. It’s a $110 billion responsibility that stretches from corner to corner and coast to coast.

Not only has Frank been on top of it all, he’s also led the industry through legislative changes (while fending off changes that don’t improve the industry). With the help of members, new safety programs have been introduced across the board.

Of course, this doesn’t happen without the insight and support of the folks he works with at the small home office. He depends on them enormously from communications to conventions without looking over his shoulder.

I wasn’t being rude at the reference to cats – enjoying a successful relationship with a one-man-band auction owner, having concerns that are as important to him or her, requires an impartiality that disallows any particular allegiance to a nationwide corporation. Such political dexterity is a rarity and Frank is very clever at measuring the pros and cons of his decisions for the benefit of the auction industry.

He used to be a wrestler! A policeman too! He comes across as a no-nonsense, enigmatic thinker whose advice and guidance is well worth considering. 

Every year he deals with a new association president who typically has an agenda or soapbox and he tries to ensure that those messages are broadcast within and outside the business.

Being on the road with Frank (although, for me, it’s been a while) is rewarding as well as tiring – he keeps a frenetic pace of energetic activity and all along retains a cutting sense of humor.

I sincerely wish a long and healthy retirement to a fellow who has brought a solid air of credibility, respectability and admiration to an ever-grateful membership.

Tricia Heon has big boots to fill and I’m sure will cast her influence far and wide in her years ahead.

Last modified on Thursday, 23 September 2021 17:15