Sometimes the best interviews are the ones you have to talk the interviewee into. And so the story goes with Tracy Isselhardt.
When Tracy heard we were looking for a local dad who does lots of good in the community, he was the last one to raise his hand to be considered for the story. “I like to fly below the radar if I can,” says Tracy, a married father of three girls, award-winning general manager, and volunteer extraordinaire. “I don’t like to draw a lot of attention to myself.”
But when Tracy learned he was our first choice, he didn’t want to let us down by backing out. Lucky us. So over soup (Tracy) and salad (me) at Bakersfield Restaurant, Tracy let us grill him about life as a working dad in Hinsdale.
“I’m eating light today because I’m doing that ‘Tough Mudder’ race with a team from work,” explains Tracy. “I’ve done races before but never anything like this. I’m the oldest guy on the team.” But despite his age, Tracy’s only real regret for signing up for this event (that is raising money for Wounded Warriors, a cause Tracy looks for ways to support) is that it happens to be taking place on Mother’s Day. “I had no idea. I told my wife that I would back out if she wanted me to…I promised to make it up to her.”
Tracy’s commitment to delivering on his promises was ingrained in him when he worked for The Ritz-Carlton after graduating from college. “It was such a great place to learn customer service. Everyone has to learn how to do every job, so there’s never any surprise or question when something out of the ordinary might be asked of you. It was great training for the work I do today.”
As the manager of one of the Top 20 Lexus dealers in the country, Tracy is always looking for new ways to enhance the customer experience for his clients. “I’m a total people person. And part-time psychologist. It’s not an easy business, but I’m always looking for how we can make our clients happy.”
When Tracy was new to the dealership nearly 20 years ago, he offered to plow the driveway of a new customer. “It seemed like such a little thing at the time. Of course, I could plow the snow out of the way so that our client would enjoy driving their new car in the winter. I just used one of our company trucks.” Today, McGrath Lexus manages the snow removal for more than 80 clients. “We finally had to hire an outside company to do this for us,” he says with a laugh. “And this was a pretty horrendous winter.”
While it’s not unusual for Tracy’s clients to call him with emergencies—flat tires, car accidents, donation for an event—it’s all part of his job. But he challenges himself to make sure his family knows that they come first.
“Years ago, I loved being out with the guys,” he says. “But now if given the choice, I would always pick a night with my wife and girls over anything else.”
As a father of a teenager, one thing has become crystal clear. “Parenting is definitely a two-person job—I don’t know what I would do without Korinna (his wife). We practically have to have weekly meetings to decide who’s driving where, who’s helping in which classroom, who’s chaperoning which school trip—it’s a lot.”
When Tracy can take his wife and girls out of town, he does. “In the summer, we love to spend time up at the lake. One of our best recent trips with them was when we dressed up like the Griswolds and headed to the Ozarks in a big RV. Now my girls have traveled to beautiful places—like Beverly Hills—that I never knew as a kid. So I wasn’t sure how this RV adventure would go. But if you ask them to name their favorite vacation, I’m pretty sure that RV trip will be at the top of their list. As their dad, it means a lot that they still want to hang out with me.”
-Ann Marie Scheidler // Illustration by Kirsten Ulve