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Following Smokey and The Bandit

Following Smokey and The Bandit
By Beth Volpert Johansen

Converting noxious gases to less-toxic versions, hunger into a community concern, local interest into elected official, and words into articles are just a few of the items on Dave Emanuel’s desk.

He is a man with many interests who fully subscribes to the idea that you should leave things better than you found them. Whether he is greeting an old friend or making a new acquaintance, Dave’s first inclination is to find out how he might serve a need. How he got to Snellville is another story entirely…The catalyst was Smokey and The Bandit.

At their company, Random Technology in Loganville, GA, Dave and Kathy Emanuel specialize in the manufacture of custom catalytic converters for a variety of applications. That wasn’t how they began their professional careers, however, when one thing leads to another, it makes a great story. 

Dave grew up in New York City where he gained an appreciation for great cars and developed the classic “need for speed” that energizes young men. He combined his writing abilities and appreciation for automotives into a career in journalism that placed his name in many of the industry’s magazines. He has authored seven books on subjects ranging from automobiles to business leading him to California along the way. 

In the 1970’s Dave and Kathy ran an ad agency in California. This connection, along with Dave’s work as a journalist specializing in automotives, brought him in contact with the second Smokey and The Bandit movie. While researching an article about the Pontiac Trans Ams used in the new movie, Dave found himself riding along with a technician who had to travel to Snellville in order to secure parts for the cars. The area appealed to him and he filed the thought in the back of his head as he and Kathy considered leaving the overly crowded California lifestyle. 

“I got a lot of mileage out of that movie,” says Dave. “I even got to interview Jerry Reed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for two articles.” Their ad agency made sure their nitrous oxide client’s name appeared in the film credits. 

After a false-start move to Houston, which proved too hot and flat with not enough greenery to suit their tastes, Dave and Kathy settled in Snellville, built a home and raised their two daughters, Nikki and Shelly. That was 32 years ago and the couple is still proud to call Snellville their home. Together, they built a business connected to the automotive industry while Dave served on local school committees where he found he had a taste for “being involved.” 

Raising a family, serving the community, and building a business were balanced by Dave’s continued taste for all things automotive. “I have done a lot of drag racing over the years,” says Dave. “Of course we had to test our work with the catalytic converters which often took us to my favorite track in a little town in middle Georgia called Silver Dollar Raceway.” Dave has also raced at the track in Commerce, Georgia which helped to fuel his hobby over the years. 

When Dave Emanuel commits to doing something, he fully commits to the project. A former Snellville City Planning Commission member, Dave was elected to the Snellville City Council in 2011 with a platform that included making certain that his constituents could reach him personally. “I feel I should be reachable,” says Dave. “I feel an elected official is there to help people.” Being personally responsive to the needs of the community is of great importance to Dave. Whether someone is asking him specifically or it is something he observes is necessary, being responsive involves taking action for the greatest good. Championing his favorite cause “Give Hunger the Boot” has given Dave a view of hunger that he had not known existed in Snellville. 

One cold, rainy March day, while driving down Hwy 78, Dave passed a church with a long line outside of a trailer. He wondered what on earth would make people stand in such a line on a horribly miserable day. The answer was simple: food. “I researched the need and learned that in our prosperous county, people are going hungry. There is a need for food,” says Dave. “The Co-op provides a bridge, it doesn’t build dependency, for people who need food.” He and Kathy set to work in order to help the SE Gwinnett Co-op. “They  are very efficient,” says Dave. “I thought that maybe my being an elected official might get them greater exposure, so we came up with Give Hunger The Boot.” 

In all things, Dave chooses to leave things better than he found them. At Random Technology, they manufacture SuperStainless catalytic converters in a variety of sizes and materials for many uses that go beyond pressing an engine to produce more power. Just like the name indicates, some uses are completely random. “We get a lot of interesting requests from all over the world,” says Kathy. “Most are not practical, but they are interesting to see.” Foreign countries, NASA, motorheads, enthusiasts…everyone has ideas and Random Technology  works to bring those ideas to fruition if it is at all possible. One such random idea came to the company a few years ago. Charged with the need to convert instrument sterilization gasses into something less noxious, a medical company contacted Dave to design a catalytic converter. After some trial-and-error, Random Technology came up with a match for the sterilizer. “The thing I think is interesting is that the same basic philosophy of being responsible and helping people got us that business,” says Dave. “We are a relatively small company who responded to them with a prototype they likely couldn’t get from the larger companies…that was 15 years ago.”

Meeting Snellville City Councilman Dave Emanuel for the first time is impressive. His handshake is firm, eye contact is made, and his first inclination is to find out what he can do for you. He walks tall in a pair of cowboy boots that appear ready to give hunger or any other threat to the community “the boot”. Just like in his daily business, Dave takes in all the facts before deciding whether he might be able to create a prototype suitable for testing on the track, in the lab, or in the community. The methodology suits his “leave it better than you found it” philosophy with substantial change occurring through the application of a simple catalyst. 

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