Life never seems to change all that much around the Amish-Mennonite communities of Northern Indiana. Lately, however, there has been an unusual wave of management changes at Jayco Inc., a major U.S. RV manufacturer located in the small Elkhart County community of Middlebury.
Jayco’s management shakeup all started in early January with a surprise announcement that the closely held company, led by the founding Bontrager family, was “restructuring” its executive management team and that then-President Bernard G. “Bernie” Lambright had announced his retirement after nine years as Jayco’s president.
In a related move, Chairman Wilbur L. Bontrager, added the title of CEO after having served as Jayco’s chairman since the 1993 retirement of his mother, Bertha Bontrager Rhodes. Rhodes had led the company since a 1986 aircraft crash claimed the life of her first husband, company founder Lloyd Bontrager. At the same time, Bontrager’s younger brother, Derald L. Bontrager, moved up from executive vice president to president and COO.
The following were among the other changes at Jayco, as the company moved to “take on the challenges of growth in the years ahead” and to reassert Jayco’s “commitment to the company’s traditional values,” according to a corporate press release:
James Stover, a manufacturing engineer who had headed up Jayco’s engineering group for three years prior to his 1999 retirement, rejoined the full-line RV manufacturer as senior vice president to oversee all of Jayco’s product engineering, quality assurance, aftermarket services activities and motorhome operations.
Pat Murphy, a former Fleetwood executive, resigned his position as Jayco’s vice president of engineering for towable products.
Larry Mast resigned his job as vice president of operations.
Phil Geise, director of purchasing since 1993, assumed Mast’s position as vice president of operations.
Dave Yoder, a 35-year industry veteran and Coachmen alum, moved up from director of manufacturing for towable products to general manager of motorhome operations.
Devon Miller, another Jayco vet, moved up to Yoder’s slot as director of manufacturing for towable products.
Marc West, who moved to Jayco from Grumman Corp. in 1992, assumed the position of director of engineering for towable products after having overseen the company’s towable product engineering group.
Are more changes afoot?
Jayco’s senior management, when contacted by RVBUSINESS.COM, had little to add to these announcements, other than to say that the bulk of the management shakeup is completed for now and that the reasons for these promotions and departures does indeed involve a “return to business fundamentals” and a more traditional way of doing business, as stated in the press release.
In addition, reports Derald Bontrager, Jayco’s restructuring also has to do with a reduction of fixed costs on the heels of an industry slowdown.
That priority was underscored by the fact that Jayco recently shuttered a LaGrange, Ind., production facility and consolidated those employees into its Middlebury complex.
Also evident throughout these changes, Derald Bontrager confirms, is a reassertion of corporate control by the founding Bontrager family. “The company wants to get back to the things that made Jayco what it is – good products, good relationships with dealers and customers and the Jayco family culture, if you will, of employees, dealers, customers and suppliers,” said Bontrager. “We believe we have put the right people in place to get back to the traditional values.”