By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff
Delegate Gary Howell and the West Virginia State Capitol building in Charleston.
At a gathering of state lawmakers during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, West Virginia Delegate Gary Howell was named chairman of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. Howell was appointed to the post after the November 5 election of New York Assemblyman Bill Reilich to the office of City Supervisor in Greece, New York. Reilich had served in the role for six years and will continue as chairman emeritus.
Supported by SEMA, the caucus is a bipartisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love for automobiles. To date, almost 600 state legislators from all 50 states have joined the group. The caucus serves to raise the motor-vehicle hobby’s profile in state legislatures across the country, and in the eyes of the public. Many of these lawmakers have sought to preserve and expand the hobby by improving existing motor-vehicle statutes and regulations.
As a SEMA member and owner of Howell Automotive in Keyser, West Virginia, Howell immediately demonstrated his desire to get involved in keeping the laws in his state hobby-friendly when he joined the caucus in 2011 upon his election to the West Virginia House of Delegates. He has worked extensively in the motorsports industry, raced both stock cars and drag cars, built winning race cars and award-winning show cars, and designed racing parts. He has also hosted a syndicated radio show, written automotive magazine articles and served as a technical expert on automotive TV shows.
“I have been a strong advocate of SEMA-model legislation that helps car enthusiasts enjoy their hobby in a safe and responsible manner,” Howell said. “I have worked to remove the tax burden on low-income car collectors, sponsored a bill to implement an objective exhaust noise testing program and crusaded against increased ethanol blends in gasoline.”
Howell sits on the West Virginia House of Delegate’s Roads and Transportation Committee in order to further help protect the rights of motor vehicle enthusiasts. In addition, his current advocacy efforts are sensitive to the needs of small businesses—the catalyst for the U.S. economic engine. Despite his busy legislative schedule, Howell still finds time to fit in personal "car stuff" and enjoys driving his Dodge SRT-4, which won Car and Driver's 2005 SuperFour Challenge in the front-wheel-drive class. His dream car is a black ’71 GTX, 426 Hemi four-speed.
“Those that don't share our love of the automobile are often unaware of the unintended effect of many of the bills,” Howell remarked. “That is the role of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, and I welcome this chance to serve as chairman. As its past leader, Assemblyman Reilich has set the bar very high and established a solid foundation to build upon. Together, the Caucus will continue to ensure the voices of the auto enthusiasts are heard nationwide.”