Mike Wirt: From Hands-On Beginnings to Legendary Service

Mike Wirt, Eastern Region Sales Manager
Mike Wirt, Eastern Region School Bus Sales Manager

We are honored to announce the retirement of one of our most esteemed colleagues, Mike Wirt, Eastern Region Sales Manager. While bidding farewell to such a cornerstone member of our team is undoubtedly bittersweet, we are genuinely happy for the chapter that awaits Mike after his dedicated service of 27 years. Throughout the remainder of the year, Mike will continue to serve his customers while we diligently search for the ideal successor. We look forward to welcoming a new team member in the coming months, allowing Mike to impart his wealth of knowledge and facilitate a seamless transition. Read on to hear the profound impact Mike has had on Virginia’s pupil transportation community over his 47-year career.

Mike Wirt: From Hands-On Beginnings to Legendary Service

In the realm of career choices, some individuals discover their calling early on. For Mike Wirt, his passion for hands-on work was evident from the start. “I took all the trade or industrial art classes I could. Whether it was welding, mechanical, woodshop – whatever – I just enjoyed working with my hands, and I was good at it,” Mike reminisces, reflecting on his formative years.

In 1977, Mike’s journey into the automotive world began when he secured a job as a service technician at the local Ford dealership. Little did he know this opportunity would set the stage for a lifelong commitment to vehicle maintenance and management.

It was during his tenure at the dealership that fate intervened, leading Mike to a serendipitous encounter with a York County employee. “I met a county employee who would bring her car into the Ford shop, and she told me about the opening on the York County shop team. It was my alma mater, and I liked the idea of continuing my career there,” Mike recounts.

In 1980, Mike landed the job with York County Garage, embarking on a journey that would span over two decades. His first role as a service technician with the County involved a variety of vehicles, including police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. An opening in the York County School Bus Garage for a Virginia State Inspection technician is where Mike was first introduced to the vehicle that would shape the trajectory of his career. “To this day, I still hold a Virginia State Inspector’s license. It’s what brought me into the world of school buses.”

As he transitioned into leadership roles within the division, Mike’s dedication and expertise garnered recognition both within the district and the broader industry. In 1982, a pivotal moment arose when Mike spearheaded efforts to streamline the county’s fleet management practices. “We had many Thomas buses, and our team loved them. The decision to standardize our fleet to one OEM allowed us to increase efficiency and improve operational costs,” Mike explains. At the time, Sonny Merryman Executive Chairman Floyd Merryman was York County’s sales manager. “I called Floyd and we worked together to build a standardized spec for York County.”

Mike’s influence extended well beyond York County Public Schools. In 1983, he joined the Virginia Association of Pupil Transportation (VAPT), a group of transportation professionals committed to advancing Virginia’s student transportation community. At the same time, Mike joined the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Advisory board, reflecting his dedication to improving educational programs. Since 1983, Mike has been an active member of the VDOE school bus specification committee, providing valuable insights into Virginia’s school bus regulations to ensure student safety.

In 1998, as Mike contemplated his career’s next chapter, fate once again intervened, this time in the form of an opportunity at Sonny Merryman. “Floyd approached me about the sales manager position and invited me to meet with him as well as Sonny and Lou. They offered me the position that day, and I accepted,” Mike recalls. At the time, Sonny Merryman was entering into a significant era of growth and change. “I came on board as Floyd was stepping into the President & CEO role while I went on the road selling all of our product lines – commercial buses, school buses, and trailers.”

Over the years, Mike’s reputation as a dedicated and driven sales professional flourished, earning him the moniker “bulldog” for his tenacity in securing large orders. Yet, amidst his professional achievements, Mike’s greatest joy stemmed from the relationships he cultivated. “My coworkers, my customers – they’re my friends. It’s always been about the people,” Mike affirms.

While retirement will lend him less time with the friends he’s made over his career, it’ll mean more time with the people he treasures most. “I’m looking forward to traveling more with my family, spending time with the grandkids, and checking some projects off my list.” Mike and his wife Beth live close to their two children (Jennifer and Michael) and their families.  They have two granddaughters and one grandson – soon to be two in July! Among his list of projects is to get back to farming. “An afternoon on the tractor helping my friend with his farm sounds like a great way to spend the day.”

As he prepares to embark on the next chapter of his journey, Mike’s heart is full of gratitude for the experiences and relationships that have shaped his career. “I will forever be thankful for my tenure at Sonny Merryman and for all the employees that I worked with daily to achieve the goal of customer trust and service,” Mike concludes, leaving behind a legacy of dedication, wisdom, and unparalleled service. Here’s to the greenest of pastures, Mike, as you embark on new adventures!