By Brad Brewer
I guess retirement is inevitable for all of us, but every so often someone pulls the pin that is considered an icon in the fleet business. On December 1, Tony Gratson, Ford Pro National Government Sales Manager, retired from the Ford Motor Company. Tony has worked at Ford for 39 years. Tony was a friend to all, regardless of who you worked for or what you were selling. Tony was and is the consummate professional respected by all, including his competitors.
Tony’s career began back in August of 1982 after serving active duty in the U.S. Army as Second Lieutenant to his Captain. With his quiet nature and humble personality, Tony was able to continue serving his country in the Army Reserves for an additional 21 years while working full-time at Ford. In total, Tony served over 30 years in the U.S. Military and retired as a Colonel. All of us who have served on the front lines of Military or Law Enforcement appreciate that this is no small accomplishment.
Early in his Ford career, Tony held numerous positions that developed his automotive skills. In the late 1980s, he joined the fleet team and later was appointed Federal Government Sales Manager in 1991. Over the next 10 years, he honed is fleet leadership capabilities and was assigned several management positions, including State and Local Government Sales Manager (1992), Fleet Sales Representative (1994), Fleet Program Analysis Manager (1997), Fleet Programs Manager (1998), and Fleet Operations Manager (1999). Given his deep knowledge, exceptional relationships, and solid fleet acumen, he was promoted to National Government Sales Manager in 2001, overseeing the Government business (Federal, State, and Local) for Ford.
Over the last two decades, Tony led one of the best Government sales teams in the industry. He has been instrumental in establishing second-to-none relationships, driving incremental sales volume, and helping Ford achieve significant government market share. Tony has led numerous strategic government initiatives over the years that have had long-lasting and positive implications on the business, including: Police Advisory Board (PAB), GSA (General Services Administration) Federal Bid Contract and Government BEV Adoption plans.
The Police Advisory Board (PAB) is how I and many readers of this magazine know Tony. He was the leader of the PAB both formally and informally. He was someone who had time for anyone, even those who were never intending to buy his product. Under his leadership, the PAB played a pivotal role in Ford’s transition away from the iconic Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) and on to the current Police Interceptor Utility (PIU).
Leading the PAB was no easy task, because it was unlike any other duty Tony was responsible for. Trying to elicit technical advice from the PAB and balancing that with the realities of vehicle production is an art. The PAB is a unique group made up of sworn Law Enforcement officers alongside some seasoned civilian Fleet Managers. This group could only be described as eclectic, outspoken, and often set in their ways. I know because I have been involved with the PAB since 2006 and Tony was a big part of why I stayed.
Tony’s unique skill set balanced the sometimes colorful conversations between the PAB and the Ford Engineering Team with precision, and it shows in just how successful the PIU is in today’s market. Every meeting was run with military precision and when the meeting started to creep outside the agenda, Tony was there to realign the troops.
Tony’s leadership can be summed up by some famous words from another great leader: Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand. —General Colin Powell
On behalf of all of us at Police Fleet Manager Magazine, all the Ford PAB members, and the entire Law Enforcement community, we would like to thank Tony for his dedicated service to the Police Fleet Industry and wish him and his family health and happiness as he embarks on this next chapter.
Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 30-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He was an eight-year member of the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.