Like the 1970s TV character, Buck Rogers led others — maybe not through space exploration, but through the out of this world twists and turns of car salesmanship.
Rogers, general manager and part owner of Payson’s Chapman Auto Center, is retiring at the end of this month, setting off to explore new areas of life away from the selling floor.
“Buck has always been a steady leader, a reliable guide through the business’ good and bad times,” said Tom Whatley, Chapman’s sales manager.
For Rogers, 64, retirement comes 34 years after first joining the Chapman team.
Rogers says he is sad to leave a business he has seen grow right along with the town, but he is thrilled to have more time to spend with his children and grandchildren in the Valley.
Whatley will take over Rogers’ role as general manager at the start of the new year.
For Whatley, becoming GM is a longtime coming, having served as Payson’s sales manager for more than 20 years.
“I am excited for the change, but a little nervous,” Whatley said. “I guess that is how we are all with any change.”
Of Rogers, Whatley said he has been a steady mentor, helping navigate the cyclical car sales business.
Working together so many years, we learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses and “after 20 years pretty well got everything ironed out,” Whatley said.
Although sad to see him go, everyone is more excited that he gets to pursue his hobbies and be with his family, he added.
Rogers joined Chapman in the 1970s, working in the service department.
Through the years, he worked his way up at Valley dealerships. When Payson’s general manager left to manage a dealership in Colorado, Chapman’s founder, Jerry Chapman, offered Rogers the position and a stake in ownership.
After retirement, Rogers says he will sell back his share in the company and move to the Valley.
The Payson dealership, and its 32 employees, will be safe with Whatley, Rogers said.
“He will do a fine job.”