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Class of 2024

Vice President, V&F Auto Inc.: Age 34

Nicole KerriganGrowing up in a family auto-repair and maintenance business, Nicole Kerrigan was certainly interested in making it her career, but she wanted to keep her options open.

She first majored in management at Western New England University, then switched to accounting, “mainly because, if I got into the business and it wasn’t what I thought it would be, I had a plan. Also, I’m very close to my family. If the business created a conflict, I didn’t want to sacrifice my family relationships.”

It turns out she needn’t have worried.

“As a third-generation leader of V&F Auto, she has brilliantly carried forward her family’s legacy while injecting a fresh and innovative approach into the business,” wrote Michael Bennett, executive coach with the Automotive Training Institute (ATI), one of myriad people who nominated Kerrigan for 40 Under Forty. “Under her leadership, V&F Auto has maintained its exemplary reputation and is experiencing substantial growth and evolution.”

Kerrigan calls ATI a vitally important factor in her growth and education, and today, she takes on numerous roles at V&F, from leading day-to-day operations overseeing the company’s social media and marketing; from communicating with customers to interviewing and hiring — and much more, including, yes, some accounting.

“I love creating relationships, overcoming challenges, and creating solutions, so my team can do their job better,” she said. “My role is to create opportunities for my team and give them the resources they need to grow and lead — to have a livelihood they are happy with and have a place they are proud to work for.”

Her colleagues say she’s acing that test. “Nicole has taken the reins in a field dominated by her male counterparts and propelled the business at V&F Auto Inc. to new heights,” Sales Manager James Dowd said.

Kerrigan is active in the West Springfield community, volunteering for a number of nonprofit and municipal organizations and events, even winning a leadership and team-development award from the Parks & Recreation department. And she’s especially proud of her role as a cheerleading coach for West Springfield High School for the past 15 years, first for the JV squad, then at the varsity level.

“I love the sport in general — it gives me great joy,” she said. “And I like the competitive aspect of cheerleading — not necessarily the sideline cheering, but being able to create routines and compete and watch the kids thrive each year, watch their skills get better and better and help them grow.”

—Joseph Bednar