It’s all about faith, family and serving the community for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce 2024 Citizen of the Year.

Collin Sewell praises his team and family and jokes that the honor is because “they ran out of people so they had to get a used car salesman … it’s really the bottom of the barrel.”

Sewell smiles and quickly adds it is wonderful to be honored by his hometown as the 2024 Citizen of the Year. A lunch is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the Odessa Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.

Joining Sewell for Monday’s lunch will be his parents and wife, Meghan, and son Nolan. His other two sons are away at college — Harris is at Clemson University and Meacham is at Texas A&M University.

He said it was tough on a dad to see their parking spots empty at home. He’s a proud dad and said he hopes he has taught his sons what his grandfather and father instilled in him.

“They instilled in me a belief that this community is what supported us and it’s the reason we exist, and we have a responsibility to make sure we have a great community.”

“Collin Sewell’s leadership, compassion, and commitment to positive change have modernized Odessa and left an indelible mark across the Permian Basin. Collin’s tireless efforts to enhance the quality of life for our community not only embody the spirit of civic duty but also epitomize the values that make Odessa such a remarkable place to call home. With a unique vision and unwavering determination, Collin Sewell has set a standard of excellence for others to follow. Shelby and I congratulate Collin on being named Odessa’s citizen of the year, and we also recognize Meghan Sewell for her contributions to make Collin’s remarkable achievements possible.”

— State Rep. Brooks Landgraf

The Sewell family has been in Odessa since 1935, when brothers Woody and Carl Sewell purchased Sewell Ford. It’s four generations later with Collin Sewell at the helm of what is so much more than cars.

He now oversees Sewell Ford, Sewell Lincoln, Sewell BMW of the Permian Basin, Sewell Cadillac of the Permian Basin, Sewell Buick GMC of Midland, Sewell Chevrolet Buick GMC of Andrews, Sewell Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM of Andrews, Press Cafe and The Parks Legado Town Center.

Sewell is so much more than a “used car salesman.” He is what makes Odessa great. He’s a volunteer, businessman and philanthropist.

He bucked the trend of growing up in Odessa, heading off to college and then deciding not to come home to Odessa for his career. He came back and has had a hand in so many of Odessa’s great accomplishments.

He said at age 24 he made the decision that Odessa would remain his home.

“It was one of the biggest decisions I made as a young professional here,” Sewell said. “I wanted to help define the future of the Permian Basin. I put myself on that trajectory but I had a lot of people who helped me with that.”

“The Odessa Chamber is excited to honor Collin Sewell as Citizen of the Year. Collin’s vision and leadership make Odessa a better place for business and life. We are grateful for his love for Odessa and dedication to our community.”

— Chamber Board Chair Judd Campbell

He points to former Odessa Mayor Lorraine Perryman, who helped him acknowledge a passion for education by asking him to be a founding member of the Education Foundation of Odessa. “I always had a seed of passion for education because my mom was a teacher.”

He said that being asked to get involved by Perryman put him on a path of service and volunteer support. “It gave me an avenue to really be able to support and work with education.”

Perryman said it has been a great pleasure to work with Sewell since he was young and just taking over the family automobile dealerships.

“He has consistently pursued and led initiatives to improve our community even as he has expanded his business footprint to become a leading employer in the area,” she said. “His leadership, philanthropy, faith and civic engagement have enhanced our city in innumerable ways, and we are all better for his efforts.”

Sewell is also involved with the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin, Opportunity Odessa, EQUIP Global Leadership, The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation and is vice-chair of IDEA Public Schools.

Sewell and his companies and his employees have many charitable organizations they support, but he said education and young people are at the top of his list.

His various educational endeavors are critical to help define the future of the Permian Basin. “Education has to be at the top of that,” he said. “Education for so many I think is the fork in the family tree that can forever change the future of a family.”

He said when he speaks about education he also means workforce training.

“Future generations are given a door of opportunity to walk through called education,” he said. “If students receive a great education they have opportunities that those without will never have. “Not everyone has to go get their Ph.D., but it means that they are given access to something that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Sewell is the vice-chair of IDEA Public Schools and said he believes in choice. He said he was introduced to IDEA in 2018 and was “blown away” by the culture in the schools, which boasts huge graduation and college bound rates for students.

“They take the very same students our traditional ISD’s don’t have the same success with and put them on a rocket ship, in my opinion, to success.”

Sewell was named to the national IDEA board and then later became the acting CEO. He spent two years as part of the direct leadership of the organization. Nationally, IDEA has a staff of 12,000 and about 86,000 students. He is no longer acting CEO but still serves on the board.

Not bad for a “used car salesman.”

“The Parks Bell family has been friends with Collin Sewell and his extended family for over 30 years. Collin has always exhibited the very best qualities of kindness, honesty, and humility through all the ups and downs of living and working in the Permian Basin. Above all that, the thing that we love most about Collin is his commitment to his faith, his family, his employees and to his beloved Odessa, TX. His passion for working tirelessly for the future of Odessa and all its citizens is a model for us all to follow.”

— Larry Bell

He always gives credit to others and said Odessa has many amazing volunteers and givers. That includes a number of young professionals.

He said things are happening in Odessa that are positive, like the recent ECISD bond election. “It’s a new generation making things happen,” he said. “Rise to the occasion, there are lots of kind people here. The biggest responsibility we have as a community is to give people an outlet to get involved.”

He said often people don’t know where to plug in and it is the responsibility of longtime Odessans to help guide them along.

”Well, I think my family’s DNA has always been about helping people,” Sewell added.

He shared how he knew at one point he needed to become a better business and community leader. In 2000 he read “Developing the Leader Within You” and it moved him.

“I looked in the mirror and realized the problem was me,” he recalled. “I had to learn to become a better leader, and I had to be better at understanding team dynamics, and I had to understand what growth looked like. And so for me, that book entered, you know, into my life at a time that I was at a crossroads, and so I realized that I wanted to make that kind of wisdom available to other people. And so for me, that’s where it started. It’s always in my DNA. I mean, that’s how we were all wired.”

He said at one point prior to that he couldn’t get excited about selling cars and found a new way to look at it. “I decided to change my attitude. It’s hard, and what I did was I went from thinking about selling cars to thinking about how we serve people … I took our whole belief about what we do to a new level, which was that we are in the memory-making business, and what I mean by that is … we help people’s memories become true, and what I mean by that is some of the greatest memories you and I’ve ever had have been in an automobile.”

He said homecoming dates, driving off after getting married or even heading to the hospital to have a baby are all done in cars. Memories.

It was a simple change in the way he looked at things.

Reneé Earls

“Collin is so dedicated to the success of Odessa and the area. He invests his time, talent and treasure to make improvements and positive changes that will impact generations. He researches issues, needs and answers himself, not relying on others. When Collin makes a commitment to serve or support, it’s not a decision made lightly. He wants to make an impact in a big way and his actions show that. Odessa is fortunate to have such an incredible advocate and resource in Collin Sewell. The Odessa Chamber is honored to celebrate him with this award.”

— Odessa Chamber President and CEO Renee Earls

That attitude has made Sewell the kind of guy that people don’t just want to work for — they want to do great work for him. “We want to be a place where people love to work and love to do business,” he said. “That order matters. Our first priority is for people to make sure this is a great place to work. That, in turn, makes it a great place to do business.”

Sewell said he strives to lead a company that would be missed by the community if it ceased to exist.

Certainly the community would miss the support of everything from Habitat for Humanity to the Salvation Army to IDEA and even Sewell’s Big Serve, which is a time when employees spread across the community to rebuild homes or pack food at the Food Bank. He said 300 to 400 of his 650 employees typically attend the Big Serve.

It’s about standing in the gap to help various organizations.

“I try to not say ‘No’ any more than I have to and there’s so many good places out there. It’s hard because there are so many.”

He’s proud of having employees who see the need to volunteer in the community.

He believes most people in life are looking for both success and purpose. He pushes those around him to get that gratifying feeling of significance.

“Because success is what I do for myself and what I do for my family, and significance is what I do for other people and for other people who could never repay me,” he said. “Once you taste significance, success will never be enough.”

Sewell said his company is called to a higher purpose and for understanding that employees are part of something bigger in this community by making an impact and serving others: That is the reward in life. Being Citizen of the Year is humbling, he said.

“I almost turned it down because I didn’t want the recognition. My hope is when you think about somebody who’s named the Citizen of the Year is that they would be known as someone who has made their community better than they found it. They have genuine motives and a genuine heart for making the community better.”

Used car salesman?

Nope. One of Odessa’s great shining stars.