October 3, 2010

Moody would use business savvy in office

The independent, who built his garage into a small empire, says he understands the challenges facing Maine businesses.

By SCOTT MONROE Morning Sentinel

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Independent Shawn Moody delivers his opening remarks at the gubernatorial debate in Fairfield on Wednesday. He says many of the principles he's applied to his business could work in state government.

Michael G. Seamans/Kennebec Journal

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Shawn Moody

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Economy: Conduct “exit interviews” on businesses that have closed, relocated or downsized; create incentives for “micro” businesses; promote the “Buy in Maine” campaigns; use technology to put all state spending online and make it easily searchable.

Energy: Pursue wind, hydro, tidal, solar and more; upgrade existing hydro dams with newly designed turbines that use less water pressure; build more offshore wind projects; promote biomass electrical energy via steam-powered turbines.

Education: Require vocational teachers to “work” at least part of the year in their  fields; expand programs in the university system; consolidate classes with decreased enrollment and utilize Web-based technologies; institute merit-pay for teachers based on a comprehensive review.

Health care: Allow residents to purchase health care across state lines; pay health care providers what’s owed to them; update billing systems; create financial incentives that promote healthy behaviors.

Welfare: Transition people from welfare to “workfare” by redeploying some of the “lean” state work force to manage the program.



This is the fourth in a series of profiles of Maine’s gubernatorial candidates.

9/12: Libby Mitchell-D

9/19: Paul LePage-R

9/26: Eliot Cutler-I

TODAY: Shawn Moody-I

10/10: Kevin Scott-I

CHECK OUT OUR Governor's Race special section

Shawn Moody was 13 when he discovered his passion for cars. Thad had a blue '64 Impala convertible and was studying mechanics at what was then Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute.

But that was also a dark time for Moody. His mother, who suffered from depression, had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for about a month. His brother and sister were not living at home at the time.

"I was really living at home alone," Moody said. "I was scared; I didn't know what to tell the teachers at school. I felt torn, worried somebody would come and take me away. But I didn't really think a lot about me; I was just worried about Mom."

Ann recovered, but realized her job had contributed to her stress and decided to go back to school.

So Moody and his mother rented the house out and moved into a mobile home. Thad and Kim moved in as well. They got by on child-support payments from his father, and Shawn worked as a paperboy.

At 14, Moody started working on cars after school in the garage at the Narragansett Street house. He also started working nights and weekends at a Corvette business.

He rebuilt his first car engine at 15. A year later, he painted his first car.

"I was getting a Ph.D. out there," he said.


Moody was 16 when his mom remarried and they moved in with Clint Allen, who owned Gorham Auto Parts on Narragansett Street. Ann Moody and Allen divorced less than a year later, but Moody rented a room at Allen's house.

In the fall of 1977, the 17-year-old Moody decided to start his own business. He got a $6,000 loan, purchased a quarter-acre lot from Allen and built his three-bay, 34-foot by 30-foot plywood garage. "It was nothing fancy," he said.

During his senior year, Moody was enrolled in a co-op program in which he finished basic school courses at 11 a.m. each day and then went to work at his garage. Since he was self-employed and in the co-op program, "I actually graded myself and I was motivated."

Mark Eastman of South Paris, Moody's high school principal at the time, said Moody was technically savvy.

"His first love wasn't English and history; he was very interested in how things worked and taking things apart and putting them back together," Eastman said. "I developed a good relationship with him. He was a bit rambunctious -- he did end up in my office on occasion -- but he really pursued his dream. He's a fighter; he perseveres."

Eastman was among those who testified on Moody's behalf during the zoning hearings on his first garage.

"He didn't follow protocol, so there was an appeal," Eastman said. "Several of us were hoping he'd have an opportunity to get a chance and we spoke We felt this is something that could be accomplished, especially with his desire and interest."

After winning town approval, Moody's business started to grow and add employees.

In 1988, Moody purchased Allen's Gorham Auto Parts and bought a garage behind the local Shop 'n' Save for a second location offering mechanical work and 24-hour towing service. Moody moved into a small room in the garage that "wasn't well-insulated."

Moody purchased adjacent property that Clint Allen had been leasing for a junkyard, a polluted eyesore that the town wanted shut down. That became the location of Moody's auto recycling business.

In 1999, he sold Gorham Auto Parts to LKQ Corp., which is now a publicly traded company based in Chicago with more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Moody would say only that it was a "multimillion-dollar" deal, and that the transaction left him free of debt.

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Shawn Moody grew up in Gorham and started working on cars at 14.

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