Chuck Butler, Butler Automotive Group’s Founder / Owner
Chuck wasn’t born into the auto industry… but it was close. Having been born in Buffalo, New York, his father moved the family to California and soon went to work in the car business, allowing 12-year old Chuck to wash cars on his lot. Because of Chuck’s height at the time, he earned 15-cents for cleaning the bottom half, a quarter for the whole car. Over the next few years he worked in all departments, drove a parts truck and moved into sales. He also served six years in the Air National Guard and on active-duty in the Air Force. After graduating from L.A. Valley College and UCLA (where he played water polo) with a degree in business administration he took over his father’s business in 1966.
It was at that dealership in Torrance, CA that Chuck met Linda. He recalls how he made sure he was in the right place at the right time when she stopped by to pick up a friend, and the way he was mesmerized by her waist-length blonde hair. On their first date he took her to a Neil Diamond concert. He says it took him three years and eight proposals to convince her to marry him.
Together, they bought the Ford dealership in Ashland in 1976. That endeavor has since grown into the four dealerships that currently make up the Butler Automotive Group in Medford and Ashland. Chuck is also a partner in Steelhead Finance in Medford, a nationwide commercial finance company, and CPM Real Estate Services with locations in Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass. In his spare time he pours energy into a number of volunteer endeavors, including the Ashland Community Hospital, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University Athletics and the YMCA.
When asked who he is when he’s not working, Chuck doesn’t hesitate. “I’m a captain”, he says. He and Linda bought their first boat, a canoe, as newlyweds. Now, they get away from it all on a slightly bigger vessel they’ve named “Comme Je Trouve”, which, when translated from French means “as I find things” or, “take it as it comes”. Chuck’s also a family man; He and Linda have four children and five grandchildren.
Linda may be in the business of selling cars but it’s people who get her fired up. Maybe that has something to do with the close-knit family she was raised in. As the youngest of four kids growing up in Southern California there was no shortage of companionship. And dreams of becoming a teacher just strengthened the desire to be surrounded by people she could invest in.
But it wasn’t long before Linda found herself drawn to a neighbor’s adding machine and realized her strength was in processing details and deciphering numbers. So she enrolled at Cal State University Long Beach where she hit the water with the sailing team and minored in accounting while getting a degree in Sociology. After tagging on classes at UCLA Linda got to work as a CPA.
It was while crunching numbers for a living that she met Chuck while picking up a friend at the dealership Chuck co-owned. He was immediately enamored by her waist-length blonde hair and independent spirit. On their first date he took her to see Neil Diamond perform at the legendary Greek Theatre and Linda was smitten. “It knocked me out of the park,” she says. Even so, it took Chuck three years and eight proposals to get her to agree to marry him.
Eventually, Linda and Chuck moved to Southern Oregon after a brief stint in Redding. Linda says they were looking for a town with a four year college, a daily newspaper and cultural relevancy. Ashland fit the bill. So, they settled in and went into business together, opening Butler Automotive Group in 1976. When she’s not at one of the group’s four stores Linda’s volunteering her time. Over the years she’s served countless organizations including sitting on the Ashland Community Hospital, Ashland Family YMCA, and Lithia Springs Girls Home boards of directors. She’s been a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, a soccer coach, and continues to give time to committees within her church. And of course she’s spending time with her family which includes four children and five grand kids. She and Chuck love taking the group on their sailboat, “Comme Je Trouve”, which, when translated from French means “take it as it comes”. But if you ask her what her personal motto is she gets more specific. “Love your people”, she says. “Employees and co-workers, as well as customers and family. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
You can’t miss Warren Cooper, for two reasons: At 6’ 5” he towers over almost everyone. And he always has a mischievous smile on his face. Maybe that’s because, as an admitted “workaholic”, he loves what he does!
Warren is a Medford native and Crater graduate who played forward for the Raiders basketball team back when Southern Oregon University was Southern Oregon College. Since he “enjoys business” and has “always had a mind for numbers”, he studied accounting, going to work for a CPA firm directly out of school. Warren’s lightning-fast computation skills took his career to LTM (now Knife River), then into partnering in two businesses – a video rental shop and appliance store – where he fell in love with retail.
But as fate would have it – he wound up in the auto industry. Warren met Chuck Butler in 1978 upon buying his first new vehicle: a Ford Conversion Van. Not only did they strike up a friendship but Warren became a repeat customer when he bought a truck from Butler a couple years later. His friendship with Chuck turned into a position with the company in the late 1980s, then into a business partnership in 1998.
In the rare moments when he’s not at one of the dealerships, Warren enjoys spending time with Paula, his artist wife of 30 years whom he says he married within a month and a half of meeting. They like to travel and have their sights set on South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore and Alaska. There’s also lots of family to attend to: four children and three grandchildren. In his free time, Warren indulges in art appreciation, reading – he especially likes history – and golf, which he says he doesn’t play nearly often enough.
The next time you visit Butler’s Ashland stores be sure to shake Peter’s hand… he might just be running the country someday. Born and raised in Medford, Peter’s passion for politics was sparked by a government class he attended at St. Mary’s High School. His Junior Project found him crafting a brief on the recently implemented Oregon Health Plan that former Governor turned teacher Mark Hatfield liked enough to print and distribute.
After graduating, and being recruited by every Pac 10 football program but one, Peter attended Oregon State where he obtained his Bachelor’s in Political Science (but never played a game thanks to a blown out ankle). He then followed up with a Masters in Politics and Public Policy from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He had the knowledge to enter politics but, there was just one problem… “I was so shy… I couldn’t talk to people. So I got in the car business. Now I can talk to anyone”, Peter says. He figures in another 20 years he’ll have learned enough about the wants and needs of the American public that he can finally throw his hat in the ring for office.
Marty Dempster, Sales Manager
By all appearances, Marty Dempster was headed for a long career in law enforcement. The Montana native was working as a Deputy Sheriff in Big Sky Country, and liking it, when he visited a nearby dealership to buy a car and walked away with a job in sales. “I’m not sure how that happened,” he says. But the serendipity paid off. The experience at that first dealership led him to another whose owner also owns a lot in Medford. That’s how Marty landed in the Rogue Valley in April 2008. Butler was lucky to pick him up as a sales manager in 2012. As for the move from the Treasure State to the Beaver State, he says there wasn’t much in the way of shock. After all, he can still engage in his favorite hobbies of hunting, fishing and golf.
But mostly, Marty’s a family man, married with three kids. His allegiances include the San Francisco 49ers thanks to a childhood obsession with legendary QB Joe Montana. And in case you ever need a horn player, Marty’s your guy. “When your graduating class consists of just 6 people, members of the band often have to play more than one instrument,” Marty says. “I can play just about anything brass.”
Rikki Fraughton, Finance Director
If you’d asked Rikki a decade ago what he’d be doing today he would’ve told you he’d be serving in law enforcement. That was the goal when, fresh off graduation from Eagle Point High School Rikki joined the Navy. His four years in the military took him to Norfolk, Virginia and a Naval destroyer. Then, he headed back to Southern Oregon to hit the books at Southern Oregon University where he studied criminology. It was while waiting to be admitted to the police academy that he first accepted a job in auto sales. But after serving one year with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Patrol, Rikki decided he’d seen enough of society’s dark underbelly and returned to the car biz where he loves talking with, and getting to know, his customers.
When he’s not helping get customers financed Rikki’s rooting on the Oregon Ducks. You’ll also find him spending time in the great outdoors, specifically hunting and fishing. His longtime girlfriend calls him “a redneck who cleans up well.” Together they’re raising two daughters and a new baby boy.
Like so many others born and raised in the Rogue Valley, Joe had to leave to realize how much he appreciated his home town. After graduating from Medford Senior High he headed for the University of Oregon to study music (he cops to playing mostly string instruments but can also tickle the ivories). But the lure of performing proved too great and Joe moved to Southern California where he and his wife, Valinda (whom he says he’s “known longer than he hasn’t”) made up two-thirds of a trio. Their music career even saw them performing with Princess Cruise Lines!
When it came time to raise a family, though, Joe and Valinda decided to move back home. He brought with him experience from working at the third largest Ford dealership in the U.S. After having been in the automotive industry since 1984, Joe says it’s the relationship he has with his customers that makes his work rewarding. When he’s not in the Service Center you’ll find him skiing, learning about new music from his grown sons and appreciating the classics of blues, bluegrass and rock-n-roll.
Mike took a roundabout road to Butler. He grew up in Rochester, New York, one of 10 kids (he says he wrote their names down because it’s getting harder to remember them!) At 16 he bought a one-way ticket to visit an aunt in Santa Barbara and, that was it; He was sold on the West Coast. Mike lived on the Yukon River while working the Pipeline, spent a couple years with the BLM (working the Rogue River Trail and the Tree Farm in Merlin), and settled into 19-years with Medite/MedCo. before going into vehicle sales in 1997. He describes himself as a chocolate-lovin’ Sicilian/Irish/German who digs golf and movies, and hits the gym at least 5 times a week “to work out frustration or just work out.” After 5 years with Butler, he says his natural talents lie in being a “people person.”
What Mike Loves Most About Working in Ford Sales
If Rocky isn’t writing a book about his life, he should be. The native Oklahoman describes his life experiences as “eclectic”. The fun started when he used a rodeo scholarship to attend college as a theater/communication major. After school he moved to Denver, Colorado where he entered the world of men’s fashion, helping launch Polo/Ralph Lauren stores all over the country and training employees in the art of sales and customer service.
16 years later, Rocky me the woman who would become his wife. Together, they picked up stakes and moved to Maui, Hawaii where she taught kindergarten and Rocky managed a ranch that offered horseback riding excursions. When the couple moved to Southern Oregon a few years later, Rocky chose to work for the Butler Auto Group where he could bring his own brand of customer service to what has become a loyal clientele. Almost a decade later, his story continues but, more importantly, he looks forward to hearing about yours.
Curtis has literally spent half his life at Butler Automotive Group. Born and raised in Ashland, he played Center and Middle Linebacker at Ashland High School (he says his team saw just 3 losses in 3 years). Shortly after graduating Curtis started washing cars for Butler. A couple years later, he joined the Army National Guard, service that allowed him the freedom to continue his employment. Along the way, Curtis married Jennifer, a neo-natal intensive care unit nurse. Together they’re raising five kids! Curtis describes his clan as a “boating family” and says they love spending time on their houseboat at Lake Shasta. He also adores coaching Ashland Pop Warner football, and being an officer with the Ashland Football Club. And, as if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he and Jen recently took up ballroom dancing. His favorite dance is Tango.