Newly appointed RVIA President Craig Kirby at RV Technical Institute opening during Open House (Photo by Shawn Spence)

The RV Industry Association (RVIA) announced today (Oct. 3) that its board of directors has unanimously selected Craig Kirby to serve as president of the association. Kirby, a 25-year veteran of RVIA and longtime senior leader within the organization, replaces Frank Hugelmeyer who stepped down in June to take a position at the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

Kirby, who has operated as interim president since May, most recently served as senior vice president of government relations and general counsel and, as such, led several of the organization’s most prominent member service divisions including federal and state government relations, legal and industry standards as well as the organization’s international business teams.

“For over 25 years, Craig has been an ardent supporter of the RV industry and a primary driver of the association’s mission to promote and protect the industry and its members,” said Garry Enyart, RVIA chairman and director of mobile generator sales and coach care for Onan/Cummins Power Generation. “Craig understands the unique nature of this industry and recognizes the needs of the membership. His demonstrated leadership over many of the association’s signature programs, coupled with his knowledge of the evolving business marketplace both domestically and internationally make him ideally suited to drive the organization forward.”

Kirby stated in a press release, “I am very passionate about this industry that brings joy to so many people. I am grateful to the executive committee and the board for their ongoing support and for the opportunity to lead this organization. I know we can not only achieve but surpass our goals because we have an extraordinary group of dedicated and talented team members who put the membership first. I am excited about continuing our work on behalf of our members to take the industry to even greater heights through our education and training, marketing outreach, and our state and federal advocacy efforts.

Kirby’s ascension to the top job at the Reston, Va.-based association didn’t come as a surprise among industry insiders. After all, the Virginia native and University of Southern California law school grad had earned a lot of respect over the years as general counsel for the trade group and had been well received since May as the association’s interim president.

Kirby, in fact, seems to be generally viewed as an individual who can bring a renewed focus on the ABC’s — the fundamental blocking and tackling of the association’s mainstream agenda — in an era when so many front-line industry players are watching the stock market, the general economic picture, field inventories, retail trends and monthly wholesale shipment reports.

That’s apparently why the vote on Kirby’s succession literally sailed through Tuesday’s executive committee meeting and Wednesday’s board conference call, said Enyart, adding that it’s been the case all along to the extent that RVIA never pursued an active search outside the industry when it came time to replacing Hugelmeyer.

Garry Enyart

“When we put together our succession plan over the last couple of years, it was our intent from the beginning to put Craig, the No. 2 in command at the time, out in front,” said Enyart. “And the same goes for naming him to the interim president slot to maintain stability a few months ago.

“Since June, Craig and I and the executive committee and others, worked together through a number of issues that needed to be dealt with,” he added. “And as we did that and thought about where the industry needed to be going forward, Craig was an easy decision to make based on his knowledge of the industry, his working relationship with the association’s member companies, and his strategy on the four primary core programs that RVIA has in its strategic plan going forward.

“He’s very respected and always has been diligent in everything he does as he interfaces with members and as he has overseen the areas that he’s had responsibility for since he became interim president. He’s been out engaging with members more, visiting their companies, and getting to know them, talking about their issues,” Enyart continued. “And so he’s got an in-depth knowledge of the needs of the industry. I think he’s going to do a great job of leading the industry association through the next several years.

Kirby and Enyart, meanwhile, outlined some of RVIA’s priorities going forward into 2020 and beyond, a future about which Kirby expressed confidence in spite of the economic headwinds the nation is facing.

Along with its continued mission to maintain the industry’s self-regulation through standards and keeping its commitment to government affairs and the national Go RVing program, Kirby and Enyart are hoping to move the association out of the cramped temporary headquarters in which its been located for several months to new facilities across the road from RVIA’s original offices. They’re also focused on the success of the association’s new RV Technical Institute headquarters the Elkhart, Ind., among a host of other agenda items.

Kirby thinks it’s all doable, even in unpredictable times like these, noting, “I actually think it’s a great moment in time. I think the industry has a tremendously bright future. I received calls from some news organizations earlier this year that were convinced the sky was falling, and the same was true with the RV industry. I just don’t believe that’s the case based on what I’m hearing from dealers and manufacturers.

“We are not going to finish, obviously, at our all-time high of 500,000 units this year, but we’re probably going to finish in the top six of all time. So, I think things are very good. We’ve built a strong base, and we’re going to continue to grow.”