Legendary ‘Cowboy Dave’ Rides Off Into the Sunset
The Blue Book Network’s David Atterholt saddles up for retirement after 20 years of faithful service
David Atterholt has enjoyed a variety of life-defining experiences. Some might say that each one is distinguishing in and of itself—but for David, it’s all come together in a remarkably grand journey that makes him someone who’s truly unforgettable.
In celebration of 20 years of faithful, uncompromising service to The Blue Book Network,® we’re providing a glimpse into some of the most noteworthy personal and professional achievements of the man fondly known as “Cowboy Dave,” who is well-known for his signature look: a cowboy hat and boots, dark sunglasses, and a blue company shirt he wore every day to work (and sometimes even on the weekends).
A Legend of a Man
David’s life before joining The Blue Book Network is rich with significance. He was born in Akron, Ohio, and raised with four siblings, including an identical twin brother. The influence of his biological father—a professional football player—prompted David to play football in high school as well as in college, where he also coached.
Many people expected David to follow in his father’s footsteps, but instead he decided at age 18 to enlist in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), at the tail-end of the Vietnam War. In addition to being stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he also spent time in Minot, North Dakota, where he worked with the Strategic Air Command, part of a Cold War-era military nuclear strike force in charge of land-based strategic bomber aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Here, David served in an elite position as a Command Post Controller responsible for launching ICBMs as well as B-52 bombers carrying nuclear warheads.
“It was quite an honor to work at the top Strategic Air Command post in the world at the time,” says David, who is proud to have earned the prestigious Air Force Commendation Medal given in recognition for outstanding service. “There’s nothing else I could ever do that equals the major responsibility I had as a Command Post Controller,” he adds.
David has had many other momentous experiences, including his days as a world-class competitive powerlifter. “I was ranked No. 5 in the world in my weight class in 1984, and chosen by many to win in 1985,” he recalls. “Family and friends thought I was quite a specimen at 242 pounds, and ripped!” He remembers in awe when he was featured on the same 30-minute television segment as the legendary Muhammad Ali—a historic moment indeed. Unfortunately, a powerlifting injury in late 1985 forced David to retire his dreams of winning the world championship.
In the years that followed, he turned his professional pursuits to sales. He had previously gained experience as a delivery route salesman for Pepsi-Cola (now PepsiCo), where he says he first realized he had a gift for working with people. He worked in sales at various other noteworthy companies, including U.S. Steel, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing (now part of Thomson Reuters) and Colgate-Palmolive.
Also of note, David continued his higher education studies over the course of several decades. He eventually earned a B.S. degree in business from The University of Akron in Ohio, and was in his final year of completing the Master of Divinity program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas when he got an unexpected call…from The Blue Book Network.
Jumpin’ On The Blue Book Network Bandwagon
David’s conversation with this headhunter changed the trajectory of his life. He accepted the job offer—which would be the final one in his professional journey—and spent the second half of his 40-plus-year sales career building relationships with hundreds of The Blue Book Network’s customers.
According to David, he greatly enjoyed leveraging his passion for people by serving on the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex sales team of The Blue Book Network. Starting as a Business Development Consultant in December 1999, he worked diligently to expand the active network of buyers and sellers in his region, leading to a coveted President’s Club award in 2008. In the years that followed, his title was changed to Business Development Manager, and throughout his career he demonstrated qualities as a man of faith and integrity that resonated with numerous key decision-makers throughout the commercial construction industry.
Blazing a Trail in Relationships
He says one relationship in particular—with concrete contractor Cates, Courtney & Roebuck—cemented his reputation as an effective, resourceful salesman. “This company was part of the team that did the AT&T Stadium,” David explains. “The current Owner, Steve Roebuck, liked my personal attention and ability to explain how to use our services, and how I alerted him of unique projects that he might be interested in. We became close friends, and I lived off his name and reputation.”
He recounts other fond memories of experiences with customers, including his first meeting with Don Livingston, President and CEO of DFW Housing Partners, LLC. Don was initially skeptical of working with The Blue Book Network because he did not think it would be a fruitful partnership. David, however, convinced him to give The Blue Book Network a trial run by promising to compile a helpful list of subcontractor recommendations for an upcoming multifamily project. They entered into the agreement on a Friday, and the next morning, David showed up on Don’s doorstep at home with a 20-plus-page list of handwritten, detailed notes of prospects representing more than 30 trades. “He stayed up all night making calls to put this list together, and I couldn’t believe it,” shares Don, who was thoroughly impressed by the fast turnaround. This effort served to solidify a lasting relationship between DFW Housing Partners and The Blue Book Network.
Another time, David attended a critical pre-bid meeting on behalf of Dale Steed, the Owner of Bronco Roofing & Construction, who was running late. For David, who has a rare eye disease causing him to have extreme sensitivity to both sunlight and artificial light, the rooftop location on a scorching summer afternoon was less than ideal. “It was a city jail and sheriff supervision was required, so everyone had to be escorted as a group to and from the roof. I accomplished my tasks for Dale in about 15 minutes, but had to wait another hour for everyone else to finish,” David says. When he met up with Dale afterward on the ground floor of the building, David was soaked in sweat and having obvious trouble with his vision. “This particular effort went a long way to underscoring why Dale chose to advertise with me for over two decades,” David says. “It was an example, among many, where I went above and beyond the call of duty to show love for my customers by meeting their needs.”
Cowboy Dave Trades in Sales Spurs for Retirement
Due to his declining ocular health, David entered into early retirement in October 2019. He regrets not being able to stay longer to continue building customer relationships alongside his extended work family. However, he also shares how blessed he feels to have served in such a rewarding role with The Blue Book Network.
“As a man of strong Christian faith, I firmly believe that I did my best for God as a member of The Blue Book team, which included loving my neighbor,” he says. “Seeing my customers’ business goals being met—and developing lifelong friendships with them in the process—are things that cannot be quantified.”
He adds, “The past 20 years have been among the highlights of my life, combined with my service as a USAF Vietnam veteran. Indeed, even in retirement, I still wear my Blue Book shirt every day!”
David’s passion for all things Blue Book has left a lasting impression on many of his colleagues, including Lisa Ireland, Regional Sales Director of Texas and Arizona. She says, “David was part of my entire Blue Book life for 12 years. He filled those days with enthusiasm and passion, often sharing how much he loved The Blue Book and our customers—he was so proud of our product and our company.”
Midwest Regional Sales Director Pat Mulkerrin echoes Lisa’s depiction of David as someone who “bleeds Blue Book.” Pat affirms, “I loved working with David. His positive energy and consistent performance made him an outstanding teammate. He was a huge part of establishing and growing our presence in the Dallas market.”
Another colleague, Executive Business Development Manager Kim Smith, attributes her very career at The Blue Book Network to David’s dedication to the company. “David Atterholt is a rare individual whom I am thankful to have worked with and, more importantly, am proud to have as a friend. His amazing longevity at The Blue Book and his loyalty to his team were some of the main reasons I agreed to work here—and thank God I did! He led the team in welcoming me with open arms,” she says.
A Fond Farewell
During his retirement speech to his colleagues, David encouraged them to forge deep, loving relationships with every customer. His closing remarks, a poignant reflection of what is most significant to this Christian man, received a standing ovation: “Someday when I’m on my deathbed, I’m going to think about God and [I’m going to] think about my family. And as I pass away to be with my Lord Jesus, I’ll think about The Blue Book.”
When David Atterholt commits to something, he gives it his all. According to many colleagues and customers, the depth of his devotion to others is both extraordinary and inspiring. The remembrances and accolades shared below serve to demonstrate the broad impact of the extraordinary man known as “Cowboy Dave.”
“I have a great memory of our first meeting in the 1990s when he flew up to Chicago. David was confident and able to show he is a well-rounded, faith-based family man. It was obvious that he would be a great addition to our team. He is a positive force with high expectations for success.”
Pat Mulkerrin, Midwest Regional Sales Director, The Blue Book Network
“The true beauty of David Atterholt is his empathy and compassion for others. David’s faith is the core of who he is. You could see this in his everyday actions, both personal and professional. This made him a wonderful member of our team. He has a fearless and consistent approach to life and maintains positivity at all times. I could always count on him to be excited and supportive of our team’s new ideas and endeavors.”
Kim Smith, Executive Business Development Manager, The Blue Book Network
“The first time I met David, he welcomed me with excitement. When I won, he celebrated with me. When I struggled, he encouraged me to just try again. He had a great way of listing all my strengths and believing in me and others on our team.”
Lisa Ireland, Texas/Louisiana Regional Sales Manager, The Blue Book Network
“From the first time David walked into my office almost 10 years ago until he recently retired, he was always upbeat and enthusiastic to share how The Blue Book could help me stay connected to the top general contractors. Each time he came by the office to go over the program, he was genuinely happy to see me, as I was him. We spent more than a few hours over the years at Pop’s Safari Cigars (a local cigar lounge) talking shop and getting to know each other on a more personal level. He was very good at building those relationships with his customers. I’ll miss seeing David professionally, but hope to continue our personal friendship in the years ahead. Hats off to ‘Cowboy Dave’ and a job well done!”
Keith Shaw, President, ADS Steel
“We began doing business with The Blue Book in 2001 and David was our rep the majority of that time. I don’t know if you could ever replace the guy. He was very service-oriented, extremely knowledgeable, and a true professional who handled himself very well. He referred a lot of prospects to us that we converted to clients. He’s going to be sorely missed by us, I can tell you. He’s one in a million and just a good, decent, wholesome person.”
Fred Thetford, Partner, Contract Bond Agency
“I don’t know if I’ve ever dealt with a person who went so far above and beyond the call of duty to help me and my company. He’s a very Christian, Bible-fearing individual, which I always admired, and displayed genuine care for my company, for me, and for the people associated with my company. He was truly one of a kind and I stayed with The Blue Book because of him. He’ll be deeply missed.”
Don Livingston, President and CEO, DFW Housing Partners