Second-Gen Fleet Professionals

May 1, 2017

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

My father is a writer. He didn’t write for a living, as I’m lucky enough to do, but I attribute my current profession to his love for literature and all our trips to the library.

The public fleet industry has a multitude of baby boomer technicians and fleet managers ready to retire, and I’ve heard about a few second-­generation fleet professionals. I’ve often wondered how much of an influence their parents had on their careers, and whether the parents encouraged their children to enter the industry.

Playing With Tools

Patrick Calhoun, 25, automotive technician II, Palm Beach County, Fla., knew since he was younger that he wanted to work on cars.

“I saw what my dad was doing and I thought it was a good business to get into,” he said.

His father, Tim Calhoun, CAFM, fleet director for Palm Beach County (Fla.) Fire Rescue — a separate fleet — said Patrick’s interest in taking apart and fixing vehicles was apparent from a young age.

Even when he was in diapers, Patrick wanted to play with his dad’s real tools rather than his own plastic tools, Tim said. Patrick took apart a go-kart and fixed it up when he was 12, and started bringing home old cars to fix when he was a teenager.

Patrick is looking to follow in his father’s footsteps. He graduated from a technical school and spent five years as a private sector technician before joining a public fleet. Tim advised his son to not stay in the technician role forever. To prepare for management, Patrick is now working on his bachelor’s degree in industrial management and is attending conferences when he can.

Tim (left) and Patrick (right) Calhoun, with Tim's '71 Cutlass. Photo courtesy of Tim Calhoun
Tim (left) and Patrick (right) Calhoun, with Tim's '71 Cutlass. Photo courtesy of Tim Calhoun

'I Fell Into It'

Not everybody knows exactly what they want to do from a young age. Keith Leech Sr., chief, fleet division and parking enterprise, Sacramento County, Calif., said his son’s fleet career was coincidental.

Keith Leech Jr., 32, is the fleet operations manager for the State of California’s Department of General Services (DGS). After graduating from college, he took several jobs before joining Hertz’s management training program. Living in the state capital, he knew he wanted to work for the state. When he got his Master’s degree in public administration, his experience and education landed him a fleet role at DGS.

However, he says his dad influenced him more than he knew.

“His enthusiasm and commitment to clean technology sparked my interest,” Keith Jr. said. “Additionally, he has introduced me to several fleet managers from around the country who have shared their success stories. All of this has inspired me to continue working in the fleet management field.”

Optimism for the Future

Public-sector technician wages aren’t high, agencies have cut benefits, and vehicle maintenance is getting more complicated. Is this still a good profession to get into?

Keith Sr. and Tim, with decades of experience behind them, and Keith Jr. and Patrick, with decades in front of them, are optimistic about the future of fleet.

“I think it’s going to be very good,” Tim said. He believes the networking in Florida will help the next generation of fleet managers.

Patrick values the stability and that he can go back to school with his schedule. And for now, he likes not being behind a desk all day.

Keith Jr. is excited about current greening initiatives, while Keith Sr. is looking out a bit further:

“It’s a great time to be a fleet manager, especially in California. We’re talking about autonomous vehicles in downtown Sacramento,” he explained.

Would you recommend a career in fleet to your son or daughter?

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Thi Dao

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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