After 44 years, the Rudig Jensen auto dealership in New Lisbon is changing hands, with Mark Rudig selling the company to three of his partners including one who is the only female owner to have “come up through the ranks.”
“It is great to be able to step away on my own terms, on my own decision, so they’re not going to throw me out or haul me out on a stretcher,” Rudig joked. “It’s great to be putting the dealership into the hands of three extremely capable people that I’ve worked with and respect for many years.
Bobbi Southworth, Derek Nelson and Jordan Schmidt took over the business on May 1, with Rudig selling his interest in Rudig Jensen Ford Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and ABRA Auto Body and Glass and the Quick Lube and Wash in New Lisbon.
“There’s a time where it’s time to go, and let’s face it, I’ve arrived at that time,” Rudig said. “It’s time for me to go and there’s never been a better time, this is it.”
Throughout his time as owner Rudig was heavily involved in the Juneau County community, holding numerous fundraisers and donating to various projects. The dealership has held events like “Test Drive for your Community,” where for each test drive the New Lisbon library received a $20 donation and a similar event for the Touched Twice clinic, sponsored food drives, donated a portion of the funds for the Mauston Police to purchase an extraction device, donated to the Kendall Larson Gold Project to replace playground equipment at Heritage Park and many other events and donations.
Although each of the three new owners are equal partners in the company, Rudig said Southworth has been named as the dealer for the auto dealerships.
“The three new owners have named Bobbi Southworth as the dealer for the auto dealerships,” Rudig said. “Since there can only be one dealer, according to the factory, Bobbi is that extra special person because she is, in the state of Wisconsin, the only one of approximately 30 women who are in upper management who are in dealer positions, and of those 30 women, it’s incredible to note that Bobbi is the only one who came up through the ranks.”
Rudig said Southworth is the only female dealer who holds the position who did not either inherit the business from family or become dealer following the death of a spouse.
Southworth, a Juneau County native, started at Rudig Jensen in February 2005 after answering a newspaper ad. She worked as an executive assistant and in the accounting department before working her way up the ranks, becoming a co-owner in 2012.
“The business just kind of grows on you every year,” Southworth said. “It’s a really fun and exciting business… it grabs a hold of you and you either love it or you don’t.”
As one of the few female owners in the state, Southworth said she is proud of how she earned the position.
“It’s a really big deal, I knew the numbers were not very large,” Southworth said. “I’m the only one who worked up the ranks… I’m blown away at that number.”
Although Southworth is listed as the dealer, each of the other two partners are equal owners, and both are from the surrounding area. Nelson worked for the dealership for 14 years prior to becoming owner, and will now lead the sales team. Schmidt started at the dealership 10 years ago and will function as general manager.
“Rudig Jensen and ABRA Auto Body in New Lisbon have approximately 50 wonderful associates and we look forward to each and every one remaining with the organization under our ownership,” the three new owners said in a joint statement. “We have no plans to change the name in the near future. Mark Rudig has built a name that holds a lot of value in our community for decades and we plan to continue what he has built and taught each of us. That being said we have a lot of work to do to fill the void that he has left at the dealership. We appreciate all the opportunities he has given us, and we look forward to proudly serving the community the way he did. Community first will continue to be our motto.”