In an unusual five-hour afternoon session in mid-January, 11 former chairmen of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) sat down around a U-shaped table in Tampa, Fla., and recounted some of the highlights and lowlights of their terms in office over the past 20 years.

Invited by ARVC CEO Paul Bambei as a way to “tap the brain trust and to reengage them for high-level strategic guidance and direction,” this meeting was the first of its kind in the history of ARVC but most certainly won’t be the last. It was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel while the 2nd World RV Conference was being held nearby, said Bambei, who chaired the ARVC meeting.

“A lot of anecdotal stories were passed back and forth,” he said. “There was a lot of good laughter. No formal minutes were taken and participants agreed not to reveal details of their discussion.

Invitations went out last summer. “We started with a gentlemen who wasn’t a past chairman but by everybody’s account needed to be there: Herb Strauss,” Bambei said. “He was the first treasurer of ARVC and was very instrumental in the early, “˜dire strait’ days of ARVC, keeping it together and personally bankrolling some of the expenses. It is such a great story.”

Other attendees were former ARVC chairmen Dan O’Connoll, Al Daniels, Irv Banes, Jeff Sims, Chuck Hays Jr., Dick Whalen, Randy Packard, Kathy Palmeri, Mark Anderson and David L. Berg; current ARVC executive committee members Rob Schutter Jr. (chairman), Marcia Galvin (first vice chairman), Terry Munoz (second vice chairman), Tim Deputy (treasurer), Truman Hartshorn (secretary); and Paul O’Neill, former ARVC ex com member.

“We purposely aligned this so our folks could intermingle (at the RV Conference) if they wished. The Florida RV SuperShow was also happening at the same time. It was a good place and the right time” for the ARVC gathering, said Bambei, now in his third year as Colorado-based ARVC’s CEO.

Other former ARVC chairmen were invited but were unable to attend, Bambei said. “I will try to keep it going at least once a year to get their strategic insights,” Bambei said. “They have such a wealth of information and perspective. This was invaluable.”

The group had a combined 500 years experience in RV park and campground management. “They talked about back in the day when they were chairmen, the stress and challenges that were facing them,” said Bambei. “They may have had run-ins with each other over the years, but they always walked out of the room with respect for each other.

“It puts a lot of the current day’s issues in perspective,” he added. “We all surreptitiously came to the conclusion a lot of the issues of yesteryear are still issues today. We kind of vowed not to let that happen in the future. We need to take the bull by the horns and deal with them,” he said. I think there will be some great value in this going forward “Time marks how people have made mistakes and learned from them. That is the greatest learning to be gained.

Meanwhile, a videographer taped 10-minute vignettes with each of the former chairmen for posting on ARVC’s revamped website when its launched in February.