Clayton Tackett honored as 2023 Outstanding Alumni

Outstanding Alumna-Clayton Tackett
Auto Body & Collision Repair 1985

Growing up in Marion, Clayton Tackett always loved cars.  His parents provided him with the basics, and instilled in him an understanding of the value of work.  One of Clayton’s first jobs was delivering papers on Marion’s west end… which conveniently allowed him to keep an eye on developing hot rod projects in his neighborhood.  He read all of the car magazines and dreamed of one day having the talent of some of his heroes.

School?  He did not love that quite so much.  In fact, he wasn’t even sure he would finish it.

Enter Mr. Wayne Stewart and the Auto Body and Collision Repair program.  These game changers expected him to “be amazing” long before it was ever a tagline.  In 1985, he became an esteemed Tri-Rivers graduate and went off to work.

This story could end right now and be a win.  But it became clear that he was different, and he quickly found out that difference was in demand.

So, he opened his own business, Kustom Kolors, to offer innovative custom design and painting for one-of-a-kind projects.  He quickly realized that he could leverage his own skills by building a great team and collaborating with others.

These traits — and his leadership and vision – are demonstrated in the work he and his team did creating custom work in collaboration with Baja Boats. With names like “Poker Face”, “Split Decision”, “Shake and Bake”, and “Lucky 7s”, these boats became famous in their own right and have been featured in national boating magazines like Power Board, Hot Boat and the like.

His auto work is known for that same commitment to quality.  As just an example, there is a 1971 Pontiac that has taken local car shows by storm in the past year, including “Best of Show” at the Wings of an Angel RISE car show.  This car, featuring Clayton’s work, will be on the promotional materials for the 2023 event, including t-shirts.

Clayton contributes to the community in a variety of ways.  Specifically, within his career field, he designed the look for the repurposed Marion City School bus used for the mobile summer food program.  The bus is an integral part of feeding thousands of kids each summer throughout the city.

He also provided support to members of the American Red Cross/MCI Branch by donating much needed equipment and feedback to their painting program.

With others, he has also donated time, expertise and talents to provide hands on training in the art of custom painting, airbrushing, pinstriping and highlighting to students in Tri-Rivers Collision Repair and Automotive Technology classes.

Clayton continues to paint every day, but has also ventured into other businesses and non-profits that require that same level of customer service, commitment to quality, and attention to detail

In 2017 when he became co-owner of one of Marion’s iconic businesses, Clayton immediately updated his title to “caretaker” of the OK Café and, with a great team, helped return it to its former glory — kicking out great pizza, cold brews, and showcasing local live music.

Clayton, along with his partner, also own a low power, non-profit radio station.  True Blues 97.5 is the only all blues station in the state of Ohio.  The proceeds fund a local non-profit, “Marion Makes Music”, which provides free music education services to children in Marion County, Ohio.

Clayton is quick to point out that none of this could have happened without help from others.  Something he tries to pay forward.  His Dad, Tom Lusch, Wayne Stewart (Tri-Rivers instructor), Pat Regules, Lester Smith, Pete Miller, and Mike Nicolosi were all great influences and advisors as he established his business.  He also emphasizes the important role that his wife Nicole and his family have played in any personal and professional success that he has achieved.

No one can really ever know all of the ways that he has contributed to his field and to others – and that is exactly the way he wants it.

Clayton, this recognition is hard earned and well deserved.  Thank you for what you do.

By Tarina Rose