The past year has been marked by change for the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), with the passing of Susanne White, the association’s deputy director, and the announcement of the impending retirement of Debbie Sipe, who has been involved with CalARVC since 1981 and its executive director since 2004.
It has also been a year marked by natural disasters, such as flooding and wildfires, that have impacted much of the state.
Sipe told Woodall’s Campground Management, sister company to RVBusiness, that the 300-member strong association continues to see growth, while new park developments and an increased interest in RVing is driving more campers to California parks.
Taking this all in is Sipe’s appointed successor, Dyana Kelley, who is set to take over the reins of the association at the end of July. She had joined the association last June to manage CalARVC’s marketing.
Before coming to CalARVC, Kelley had a lengthy career in the commercial insurance business and in the past had also ran her own fitness business for kids. She achieved her associates degree in recreation management, with a feature on parks and tourism, while operating her business and had worked at CalARVC for a brief time under a temporary role, eventually going to work full-time for another organization before being asked to come back to CalARVC after White’s passing.
WCM spoke with both Sipe and Kelley about the work they have been doing to prepare CalARVC for the transition of leadership, as well as about key topics that are affecting campground owners in the state.
Below is the edited conversation.
WCM: Dyana, how have you been preparing to step into the executive director’s role and what has it been like working with Debbie during these past few months?
Dyana Kelley: It has been very exciting to be perfectly honest with you. I have a lot of passion for this industry and I think Sipe knew that coming in. I think she saw that and, if anything, that’s probably the one thing that makes her feel comfortable about me stepping into the role. Even if I don’t have all the answers, my drive to find success for the organization is so strong that I think she feels like she is leaving it in pretty good hands.
Debbie Sipe: Very much so. Our associations are so small, and we have such limited resources, and finding the right person with the right passion is the only way for our organizations to be successful, and Kelley certainly has that. The amount of information that I keep pouring into her brain, it is amazing the retention that she has had so far. I am expecting her to get to an overflow point, but that has not happened yet.
Kelley: Occasionally, I have to hold up a white flag and slow things down. There is a lot to learn about the association and the industry as a whole. It is important for me to understand where the association has been and where we are going, but at the same time I will never know everything that Sipe knows, so it is also important for me to create my own path.
Sipe: And there really is no need for her to know everything, because it is about her building and creating the next chapter for CalARVC and that is what I feel very confident that Kelley is going to be able to do.
WCM: During a transition period, especially when two people work together, you can have these neat interactions where maybe one-person notices something that maybe the other person hadn’t, or you notice maybe a different way to do something, has that been happening while you have been working together?
Sipe: Yes, and that is exactly why it is time for me to step down. I’ve been doing this for a very long time and it’s always been my philosophy that an individual has an expertise level and a period of time in which they can contribute to an organization. I’ve been working in some way, shape or form for this organization since 1981. It’s definitely time for new blood, for fresh ideas, a change of pace and a change of rhythm.
I’m hoping to be able to stay on and do the government affairs portion, which I still have a passion for, but it’s time to pass the reins on and let somebody else’s creative juices come in and spark a new drive and interest in the organization.
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