Doug Powell - Class of 1982
Owner, Autoworks of Valdese, Inc.

In our modern society, the need for a dependable automobile is imperative. Drivers hope for a steady and trustworthy business for auto maintenance, service, and repairs. Doug Powell, owner of Autoworks of Valdese, Inc., is one businessman who provides this kind of reliability. He explains his duties: “I am responsible for administration of all business operations, including employee training and development, customer service and advocacy, diagnosis and implementation of repair strategies and procedures, procurement of industrial and testing equipment, and payroll. Internally, I enjoy sharing my experiences and training with my employees and helping them achieve their greatest potential professionally and personally. I enjoy meeting new people and the continued engagement of customers who, interestingly enough, help mold and shape us into the better versions of ourselves. Of course, I still enjoy the hands-on experience of the repair processes but spend most of my shop time researching emerging technologies and practices.

“I realized my inspiration for becoming an auto technician long after the fact. Most of my high school education was college prep, but I had an aptitude for mechanical and electromotive things. I wasn’t necessarily passionate about it, but I was good at it. It wasn’t until many years later that I heard Mike Rowe say, ‘Do what you’re good at, but take your passion with you.’

“The greatest challenge to the auto repair and servicing industry is the perceived notion that automotive technology and the environmental footprint left by it has not changed, both for the people working in it and the customers needing to be supplied by it. The challenge is understanding and mitigating that what is best practice today will be altered tomorrow and at some undetermined cost. Rewards come in many forms. Seeing employees grow and raise their families out of the provision of this business is hard to top, but I would say that having met so many wonderful people and the relationships that come from that is what I’ll keep closest to my heart forever.

“My first industry job was at the Burke County school bus garage. I worked for Wayne Herron who was and still is one of the most kind and proper leaders I’ve ever known. In a very short time, Wayne left an indelible print of how to lead. I left there to work at a GM dealership, where I excelled in processes, training, and certifications. My pursuit of understanding advanced electrical fundamentals led me to my next job after I started night classes in electronic product servicing. I worked for a large family-owned electronics store for a little over a year before coming back to the auto industry. Landing at a dual manufacturer dealership caused me to formulate the possibility of my own business. I was given latitude in the diagnostic portion of the services we provided due to my enhanced electrical training. Commission salaries weren’t very defined during the infancy stages of auto computers and diagnostics, and getting paid a reliable wage was a struggle. I took a gamble in August of 1990 and started Autoworks. I was married with two children and had to sell my house to fund it.

“I also served as an industry consultant to the automotive technologies department at Catawba Valley Community College and served as a commission leader that helped the CVCC automotive education department to obtain national industry certification. I later taught for several years a course in advanced performance at CVCC, where I had the liberty to expose students to emerging technologies and practices that postdated their textbooks.”

Doug’s credentials include Graduate Automotive Science at Wester Piedmont Community College and Graduate Electronic Servicing at Catawba Valley Community College. He is a Nationally Certified Master Technician and has attended “too many evening classes to remember.”

Everyone has people who encourage and inspire, and Doug is no exception. “My life is filled with great examples of people doing their jobs honorably and effectively. My parents both showed grace and restraint while I figured out my future. Both were great examples of responsibility and hard work. My greatest hero is my wife. She is a perfect snapshot of defeating adversity with skill, intellect, and resilience. There was no shortage of great leadership at East Burke. I’ve often looked back at the instruction and interactions with Barbara Bliss and Roy Sweezy with great appreciation, borrowing from them in my own teaching experiences. In their classes, you were allowed to have fun, but you were expected to be responsible and learn. I had the privilege (and stress) to play for both Kathryn Siphers and Danny Williams as well as Wayne Fletcher and Ken Cline. I had the opportunity later in life to hug Kathryn before she died and shake the hands of these good men who taught commitment through the close relationship of fear and respect!

“I look forward to transitioning into the mentor stage of my business. My hope is to hand off the company in a few years to some deserving and dedicated employees and watch them carry on the mission of serving and growing relationships in our communities.”

Published December 2021

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