As a part-time firefighter, a member of his town's Building and Planning Commission and an area marketing manager for asTech---a company that focuses on providing OEM diagnostics to collision repair shops nationwide---Eric Newell, 36, is adept at multi-tasking, to say the least.
When he isn't going into burning structures to save lives or working for asTech, he is making crucial decisions about the future of Lowell, IN---a town whose slogan is "A Friendly Town of Friendly People” with a population of approximately 9,000.
Newell broke into the collision repair industry as an estimator for Cars Collision, an MSO with locations in Indiana and Colorado before the business was bought by Gerber Collision & Glass. He redirected his career from there and decided to become a full-time firefighter.
"I'm in my 10th year now as a firefighter, and I love it because I can help people and play an important role," he said. "I also love the brotherhood that exists between firefighters."
After completing his two-year training to become a paramedic and a firefighter, Newell was assigned to Fire Station 1 in Schererville, IN. He immediately took to his new job and excelled at his new role.
"It's an exciting and fascinating life with something new and different to do literally every day," he said. “After two years, I was elected and became our union president of the Professional Firefighters of Schererville and subsequently became a member of the state organization's board."
In 2013, Newell received the Firefighters' Medal of Honor for saving a fellow firefighter in addition to several other citations over the years, he said.
"An attic above us collapsed on a firefighter, and he wasn't able to get out of the building, so I dragged him down three stories and got him out. I didn't have any time to think about it, and my adrenaline was pumping. I know he would have done the same for me if I was in his position, so my training kicked in and I got him out. I don't fight fires for awards or medals, but it is nice to be recognized,” he said.
After a while, an opportunity to re-enter the collision repair industry came his way. He decided to take it.
"A friend of mine owns a six-shop MSO in northwest Indiana. They asked me if I would work for them part-time as a consultant, and I said yes," he said. "I later became the company's compliance manager and then was promoted to their COO. In July of [last] year, I was offered the job at asTech, and I decided to accept it. I cover three states (Indiana, Illinois and Ohio) for asTech, and it's a great place to be. We have some of the brightest minds in the industry and an incredible executive leadership team."
At the same time, Newell was appointed to a position in Lowell's Office of Building and Planning Commission and accepted it without hesitation.
"It's a great role for the town, and I enjoy doing it," he said. "If a new business wants to come into Lowell or if an existing business wants to change its structure, we have to review it and make a decision. I am now thinking of running for Town Council in the next election, which will be in November. It's been very satisfying, so expanding my role is something I am definitely considering."
Now, Newell works full-time at asTech and covers at least one 12-hour shift at the firehouse in addition to sitting on his town's board. It's a hectic life, but he would not change it for anything.
"Busy people are happy when they're busy. It's all about being organized, and that is why it works. People make the time they need to do what they want to do, and if you play a positive role, it fulfills you on many levels,” he said.
One of the things he wants to do now is help asTech grow and to continue on his path to helping others, he said.
"They would have to kick me out of the firehouse for me to stop, and that's not going to happen anytime soon,” he said. “asTech is going through a hyper-growth stage, and I want to be instrumental in that. It's an exciting time in my life, and if I can get enough leisure time to attend my 10-year-old son's wrestling matches and play a little golf now and then, I am a happy man."