By Gabrielle Fimbres
Fatherhood makes Neal Weitman a better man.
“Being a parent challenges you to be a better person,” said Weitman, GM of Royal Automotive Group. “The kids are always watching.”
Weitman, a 2014 Father’s Day Council Tucson Father of the Year, is the second devoted Weitman father to receive the honor. His dad, Paul Weitman, was in the first group of dads honored by the organization in 1995.
“I think it’s a neat legacy – and a great honor,” Neal Weitman said.
The family has a long history in the Tucson automotive business. When Neal was a child, the family lived in Florida, where his dad worked as a manager at a Buick dealership. When Zimmerman Buick in Tucson became available for sale, a group of dealers in the southeast had an opportunity to buy it – but none wanted to move west.
The dealers loaned Paul Weitman the money to buy it, and – as Weitman lore goes – Paul called his wife, Betty, and said, “The deal is done – we are moving to Tulsa, Arizona.”
Paul denies it.
Today, the Royal Automotive Group has grown to include Lexus of Tucson, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mini, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, plus Certified Pre-Owned and the body shop.
Neal graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School and went on to play football at the University of San Diego. He returned to Tucson 19 years ago and sold cars at Royal, working his way up to manager and now GM.
He and his wife, Virkine, married in 1999. They have three children – Grant, 12, Daniella, 10, and Julia, 7.
The family is always on the go – with soccer, basketball and gymnastics, as well as athletic events at The University of Arizona, vacations and plenty of good old-fashioned fun.
“We have always been really involved with our children,” Weitman said. “We love to play.”
Weitman said fatherhood has changed in that very busy dads are able to be more involved.
“You go to a play or some other event at school and all of the dads are there. I don’t think that was the case 30 years ago. You don’t want to hover, and you need to let kids be disappointed once in a while, but it is important to be there.”
He said technology helps, but is also a curse.
“In some ways it makes life easy, but I check my phone all night long.”
Blessed with healthy children, Weitman said it is important to raise money for type 1 diabetes and other childhood illnesses.
“Diabetes is a lifelong issue. The Steele Children’s Research Center has really grown the research. To be able to contribute to that research is very meaningful.”
Weitman is active in the community and is president of the Tucson Conquistadores. He has been involved in a number of charities through Royal.
“We are a big small town, and if you can be involved in helping the community, it’s what you should do.”
Royal receives 50 to 60 donation requests a month, many from customers. “We try to give to as many as possible. We really believe in making our community a better place to live.”
Weitman said Tucson has much to offer.
“I’d like to see us grow a little more and improve our infrastructure,” he said. “We don’t want to be known as the community that loses things. We want to attract businesses and visitors and events that benefit all of us. We have room to grow.”
He said the automotive business is rebounding from the economic downturn.
“Business is good for us, and we have been able to expand. The luxury market is growing and manufacturers are adapting to new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Cars are now more fuel efficient and smaller.”
With about 375 employees, Royal strives to be an excellent place to work and do business, Weitman said. “Belly to belly, eye to eye, we want our customer service to be the best. And when someone comes to work here, we feel a responsibility to make it work well for everyone.”
He said his dad has been a good role model as a father and a businessman. Weitman is passing on the parenting legacy to his children.
“Parenting isn’t easy – but nothing worthwhile is.”