Meet the winners of this year's Highland Chamber of Commerce awards
Eric Rehkemper was born to be in the car business.
After college, he began his career at Dick Edwards Ford in Manhattan, Kansas and honed his automotive industry skills there over the next three years while his wife completed work on her architectural engineering degree at Kansas State University.
He moved his family back to Highland in 1992 and started working as the new car manager at Tri Ford Inc.
“That territory was very familiar to him, since he had grown up as part of the Tri Ford family,” said Tina Frank, director of rehab at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland, who presented Rehkemper the Bill Pierce Chamber Member of the Year on Tuesday at the Highland Chamber of Commerce’s annual Membership Dinner and Awards Night. “His parents and their partners had created the Tri Ford dealership when he was just a 1-year-old, so he knew his way around the place well. In fact, he used to tell his own children how he would ride his bike to the dealership when he was 11 or 12 years old from their house on St. Rose Road.”
Now, he is president of the company, which happens to be one of Highland’s most successful businesses. He is also currently the treasurer of the Ford Dealer Advertising Group in St. Louis and has been an active member of that group’s board of directors for the past seven years.
Rehkemper has also long been involved with the chamber, including serving several years on the board of directors and as president in 2009-2010.
“He had always had a deep belief that the overall success of the business community was vital to the health of Highland, so being a director was a fun and natural way to get involved,” Frank said.
And did he ever get involved.
“He put hours and hours of effort and manpower in to helping, organizing and chairing the Chamber’s Valentine Dinner Dance. He hosted Business After Hours events, sponsored and helped with the Street Art Festival,” Frank said. “Even if he didn’t chair the event, he was nearly always an active participant and never turned down the chamber’s need for assistance, whether it required manpower or funding. Eric has also spent many years leading the parade lineup for the Christmas parade.”
Possibly his biggest mark on the chamber has been his leadership on the Highland Square Christmas Village decoration project.
“This has been a 20-year endeavor for him,” Frank said. “He has been instrumental in nearly every phase of one of Highland’s proudest displays. He has been there to oversee the construction of new houses for the village, to oversee the refurbishment of existing structures, and purchasing new lighting for the square. He’s been there through the construction of permanent concrete foundations for the village pieces and has been the guy responsible for seeing that they are transported, put into place properly and returned to their storage units when the celebrating is over.”
He has also lent his time to help the community in others ways. He has served as a member of the city of Highland’s Industrial Development Commission for the past six years, and he has also served on the St. Paul Church Kirchenfest Auction committee for 15 years and chaired that event for four years.
He has orchestrated the Drive 4 UR School program through Ford Motor Co. for the past several years, which has raised more than $100,000 for various Highland High School athletic programs and clubs and local organizations, like Rotary Club, Optimist Club and the Highland food pantry.
“Highland is such a great community. I am so glad to have been a part of it for so long, and I am so very appreciative of this award,” Rehkemper said. “I had no idea. It completely caught me off guard. I love surprises like that. They are amazing.”
Meet Eric Rehkemper
Business: President of Tri Ford Inc. in Highland
Family: Parents, Monica and the late Dave Rehkemper; wife, Janean Rehkemper; daughter, Cori Rehkemper; son, Braden Rehkemper; mother and father-in-law, Terri and Steve Holt.
Education: St. Paul High School class of 1986. Following high school, he attended college at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, where he graduated with a degree in automotive marketing and management in 1989.
Hobbies: Attending, watching, and coaching his children’s many activities. In his spare time, he also enjoys catching a Blues or Cardinals game, a relaxing weekend on a boat at the Lake of the Ozarks or a vacation adventure with his family.