David Kimmerle – Fueling His Passions
Writer Sue Kern-Fleischer
Photography Courtesy of Cave Creek Rodeo and Loralei Lazurek
David Kimmerle was a sophomore in high school when he found himself caring for a newborn calf with a broken leg. Just days earlier, he had let a farmer know that a cow was giving birth to the calf in the pasture. When the farmer was taking them to sale, the mother jumped and broke the calf’s leg. With no use for the calf, the farmer asked Kimmerle if he wanted it.
It was an exciting and scary moment for a kid who was raised in Brooklyn, New York. He and his family were living in Arizona, and while he did have some experience with livestock through his 4-H club, now he was alone with a young calf in pain that looked close to death.
“I called my mother, who was a nurse, and asked her to bring some casting material so we could set the leg,” Kimmerle, now 74 years of age, recalled. “Then we gave it a shot to get rid of the fever. I fed and raised her until we weaned her. I had her artificially bred and later sold her and her calf.”
Little did Kimmerle know that the little calf would lead him to become a young livestock entrepreneur, an experience that would help prepare him to work his way up to his positions as CEO of Sanderson Ford in Glendale and as CEO of Sanderson Lincoln.
Sanderson Ford is the title sponsor for the 42nd Annual Cave Creek Rodeo Days, set for March 22 through 24 at Cave Creek Memorial Arena. Kimmerle’s passion for rodeo and Cave Creek helped to keep the rodeo going a few years back when an abrupt leadership change set off a series of what seemed like insurmountable logistical challenges.
“Sanderson Ford’s support of the rodeo over the years has been incredible,” said Beth Cornell, president of the non-profit Cave Creek Rodeo Days. “We are particularly grateful to David Kimmerle, who stepped up to the plate and helped us navigate some rough waters when our new committee was formed two years ago.”
Kimmerle, though, is quick to pass the kudos to Cave Creek Mayor Ernie Bunch, Beth Cornell, a local realtor, Danny Piacquadio from Harold’s Corral, Max Sirstins from Sanderson Ford and the rest of the rodeo team, including the stock contractor Binion Cervi, for pulling it all together in just a few short weeks.
“We couldn’t let the rodeo die,” he said. “The people of Cave Creek are very special, and it was amazing to watch everyone come together to have a 40th anniversary rodeo.”
A Love for Livestock
Kimmerle credits the 4-H non-profit organization with teaching him about livestock.
“We weren’t a farm family, but I loved animals, and I raised chickens in the yard,” he said. “4-H taught me about animal husbandry and how to be of service to others. It was such a positive experience, I had a rule with all of my kids that they had to be in 4-H for at least one year.”
His entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear in 1962. While on his paper route, he met a customer who worked as a bank manager.
“With his help, I was able to get an unsecured loan to rent a vacant feedlot in Glendale to raise and sell cattle,” Kimmerle said. “I paid interest only until I could repay the entire loan. I signed my life away—no one else signed for me. I was just a junior in high school. That would never happen today. You’d have to learn how to establish credit and build from there with how finances have changed in the last ten years.”
His goal was to buy 40 head of cattle and sell them for beef. He presented his plan to the bank manager and, when the loan was approved, he paid $1 per head per month for the barn, pens and a scale.
During the same time, he was working at Sanderson Ford and he had a Ford Ranchero.
“When it was time to sell, the market tanked. I sold 30 of the 40 head and paid off what I could. I kept 10 head to fatten them up and I made locker beef. I was able to have aged beef. … It was the right move. I paid off the bank and established credit,” he said.
After high school, he served in the Air Force for six years and then did advertising for the Arizona National Livestock Show, the Turquoise Circuit and the Old Timers Rodeo at the old Maricopa County Coliseum.
“I never competed in rodeo, but I loved being behind the scenes promoting it,” Kimmerle said, adding that he produced his first rodeo in 1986 at the coliseum. For the 40th anniversary of the Cave Creek rodeo, he had a special treat of reuniting with his long-time rodeo clown friend, Leon Coffee, who is now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Blessed with a Big Family
Kimmerle’s first passion was livestock, but he found a successful career path through Sanderson Ford as he advanced from sweeping floors to working in parts and service, and then later managing the sales department.
He also fell in love with founder Don Sanderson’s daughter, Sue, and the two married in 1968.
Together they had six children and 16 grandchildren.
While rising up the ranks of Sanderson Ford, Kimmerle and his family continued to own cows, sheep, llamas, and alpacas, even though they lived in the ‘city’ in north central Phoenix.
Sadly, after 46 years of marriage, Sue passed away in 2015. To honor her legacy, Kimmerle and his family established an agriculture youth scholarship that is given each year in her name at the Maricopa County Fair.
With his kids grown, Kimmerle decided to get rid of most of the animals and focus on selling breeding stock. Currently, he has Angus and highland cattle, which he cares for both in Phoenix and at his Flagstaff ranch.
A few years back, he re-connected with Jill Banks, an old family friend. A spark ignited between them and they were married.
“The twists and turns of life can be surprising,” Kimmerle said. “Now we have 26 grandchildren between us with five great-grandchildren and two on the way.”
Relationships Are Everything
Whether it’s family or business, Kimmerle said nothing matters more than relationships.
“Sanderson Ford has a 64-year track record of long-lasting relationships,” he said, adding that he bought the dealership from the estate in 1985 after Don Sanderson passed.
“We built this dealership to what it is today based on our relationships. Our customers write our report card, and it’s gratifying to see repeat customers bring in their kids and grandkids when they’re ready to buy a car.”
Kimmerle is also dedicated to the more than 500 employees at both Sanderson Ford and Sanderson Lincoln.
“Many of our employees have been with us for several decades. We try to be good to our people, and we’re the only car dealership in Phoenix that closes on Sundays,” he said. “We’re also very committed to giving back to the community. Last year, our two dealerships helped to support several local Valley charities. Our main focus is on kids and military. We help raise over a million dollars a year for our charities.”
Kimmerle, who drives a Ford truck, acknowledges that the auto industry has changed and that consumers have more choices.
“Regardless of all the changes, we’re still in the people business,” he said. “We want to make customers for life.”
Support the Rodeo
He is equally passionate about keeping Cave Creek Rodeo Days alive for years to come.
“We’ve adopted Cave Creek. We love the town and the people. Many of our employees live there. We encourage everyone to show their support by attending the PRCA Rodeo competitions or getting a group together to participate in the town’s parade,” Kimmerle said.
He also hopes more businesses will show their support for the rodeo and the Cave Creek Rodeo Days organization.
“There are so many great opportunities for sponsors, and the committee is always in need of volunteers. The best part about Cave Creek Rodeo Days is that this non-profit helps other non-profits throughout the year. It’s really one of the best rodeos in Arizona. Join the fun and get involved!”
Cave Creek Rodeo Days
Saturday, March 16 | 9 a.m. | Downtown Cave Creek
March 16 | 2 p.m. (Sign-up is at noon; event begins at 1 p.m.) | Buffalo Chip Saloon (the official CCRD Mutton Bustin’ sponsor)
March 18 | Tatum Ranch
March 22 and March 23 | Gates open at 5 p.m. | PRCA performance
7:30 p.m. | Cave Creek Memorial Arena, 37201 N. 28th St., Cave Creek
March 24 | Gates open at noon | PRCA performance 2 p.m. | Cave Creek Memorial Arena, 37201 N. 28th St., Cave Creek
Buffalo Chip Saloon Kick-Off
Harold’s Corral Official Rodeo Dance
Saturday, March 23
Free shuttle buses from town, pick up locations located in downtown Cave Creek and also at the corner of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway. Check the website for specific locations and departure times. RIDE FREE with or without a ticket. Save $3 when purchasing tickets on the bus.
Rodeo tickets purchased in advance $22; tickets at the gate $25