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FRONT AND CENTER: Susie Everett

Familiar face is dedicated to caring

By Wayne Bryan

This article was published January 16, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

Susie Everett holds Beau, a schnauzer who comes to work with her every day, in the showroom at Everett Buick GMC. Everett is known as the “face” of the family-owned dealership.

— Many people recognize Susie Everett, even though they have never met.

As the “face” of the family business, Everett Buick GMC in Bryant, she is seen on commercials all during the day on local television. Her job description is customer service and public relations, but with her exposure on the company’s advertising, she said she gets all kinds of calls.

“I am not a car person,” she said. “I get a lot of questions I don’t usually know the answer to, but I can find someone who will.”

Whatever she does for the customers must be working, The company was recently named No. 1 in new-car sales for GMC dealers in the country. According to information in the announcement, the sales staff of the Saline County dealership sold 2,199 new vehicles in 2010. That includes 1,827 GMC vehicles and 372 of the Buick brand.

Everett’s husband and dealership co-owner, Dwight, said this was the first GMC dealer in the state to ever place at the top of sales in the nation.

While she does the commercials, Everett claims little of the credit for the dealership’s achievement.

“It is because of the loyalty of our customers and the hard work of our employees,” she said.

The car person in the family is her husband. He worked for the Steve Landers auto dealer corporation for 28 years.

“When he retired, he said if the dealership in Bryant was ever for sale, he was interested,” she said.

When the Penski Group, then the owners, were looking to sell the dealership in 2006, the Everetts took a chance.

“Dwight said he wanted to do this,” she said. “He didn’t want to look back when he was in his 70s and wonder if he could have done this.”

As co-owner, Everett went into the car business, and she has helped fashion a customer-friendly atmosphere.

“I approach this like I want to be treated when making a major purchase, like a car. We like to make things feel different here,” said Everett, who is joined at her office desk by her dog Mr. Beau, a schnauzer.

“He comes to work with me every day,” she said. “People see him, and the mood of the place changes.”

Putting people at ease and serving customers may come naturally for a person trained as a nurse.

“I attended Ouachita Baptist University for two years and finished my degree as a nurse practitioner at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences,” Everett said.

However, she didn’t work as a nurse for very long.

“Five months after graduation, I had a baby,” she said. “I got to be a nurse practitioner full time, 12 years later.”

She worked as a school nurse for Caldwell and Ringold elementary schools and Benton Middle School for two years.

After leaving the job with the schools, Everett used her skills as a volunteer. She went on several church missions in Latin America and came home with a new perspective.

“I returned from a mission and saw the same needs for medical care here at home,” she said. “I talked with my pastor, and he introduced me to Warren Burleson and Debbie Johnson. They saw the same thing I did.”

Those three held meetings in Benton, and a group of others who were interested joined in to form a committee. That group helped form the Christian Community Care Clinic in Benton in 1999.

The clinic offers medical and dental services funded by local churches, businesses, civic organizations and individuals.

Everett said Rick Holland, then mayor of Benton, was instrumental in getting a permanent home for the clinic.

“I wanted to ask for the old library, and Rick showed me the old utility building,” Everett said. “I told him it could never happen, but he help get the money together with grants.”

In a recent interview, Holland said facilitating the clinic’s move into the old city building gave him more pride than any other project during his time as major.

In 2005. Holland not only found the new building but found funding for asbestos abatement and cleaning out toxic mold before renovation of the building.

“It is free medical care for people not poor enough for Medicaid, who don’t qualify for Medicare and don’t have health insurance, and don’t have enough money to pay for the care on their own,” Holland said. “They are the people in the doughnut hole that the health care program talks about.”

Holland said the people who created the clinic, including Everett, did a great service for the city and people in Benton.

A recent report from the clinic said 1,225 patients visited in 2010. The clinic provided almost $410,000 in medical care with 150 volunteer doctors, 16 nurse practitioners and 270 volunteers providing support. The clinic also provided more than $91,000 in dental care from 81 volunteer dentists to 185 patients. In addition, lab work and prescriptions worth almost $1 million were provided by the clinic.

“We did the best we could with it,” Everett said. “Then Stephanie Duke came along and got grants and other things that really pulled everything together.”

Everett remains on the board of directors for the clinic and will volunteer as a nurse when asked.

“I miss it and wish I could do it more,” she said.

As the clinic was created and moved to its present location, Everett’s attention was also focused on her own health care. She battled breast cancer, first in 1997 and again in 2002.

Being cancer free for eight years, Everett said she doesn’t really think about it that much anymore.

While busy with the successful family business, Everett said she wants to keep volunteering at the clinic.

“I see this as part of something God wanted to happen,” she said. “You don’t see something like that every day.”

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