The Chairman’s Dinner during last week’s RVs Move America Week celebrated the many accomplishments of the RV Industry Association’s (RVIA) previous Chair of the Board Jeff Rutherford. The ceremony was presented by current Association Chair Kevin McArt, Forest River’s general manager, according to an RVIA News & Insights report.
“It is a tremendous privilege for me to host tonight’s program as we recognize Jeff’s time as Chair of the Board,” McArt began. “Soon after the Board elected Jeff chair in 2020, we saw the greatest expansion of the RV market ever in 2021 with more than 600,200 units shipped. Things did cool off a bit in 2022, especially the later in the year, with 493,000 units shipped—still the third-best year ever.”
Let’s recap — almost 1.1 million RVs shipped and two of the three best years on record under Jeff’s watch!
McArt also highlighted Rutherford’s numerous achievements during his tenure as chairman. “The RV Industry Association was re-accredited by the American National Standards Institute, maintaining one of our top membership benefits of being a self-regulated industry. We launched the Emerging Leaders Coalition to cultivate future leaders across the RV and campground industry and boost their involvement in the Association. The Association released powerful, insightful research, including the RV Owner Demographic Profile, the first-even Campground Market Analysis, and an updated RVs Move America Economic Impact Study.”
In addition, McArt covered the advocacy successes that took place under Rutherford’s guidance and leadership. These include the removal of RVs from Louisiana’s Redhibition Law, a top legislative top priority for the organization for many years. (This unique, very broad-based law was used in place of the typical lemon law for both motorized and towable RVs. New legislation created a new section of law to cover all RVs to more appropriately resolve issues). In addition, the federal government invested substantially to improve outdoor recreation opportunities and infrastructure, including campgrounds and roads, through the Great American Outdoors Act and other stimulus and appropriations bills.
And the list of Jeff’s accomplishments doesn’t end there. “Fueled by Go RVing’s national advertising campaign and public relations efforts, interest in RV travel and camping soared with new, first-time buyers flocking to the market,” McArt said. “We got back to hosting live events – the RV Aftermarket Conference, the Leadership Conference, and RVs Move America Week. The Kevin Phillips Scholarship was established to provide funding to cover the cost of RV technician training at the RV Technical Institute. I know this was very important to Jeff to honor his dear friend.”
“On behalf of the association and the industry, thank you for your service and leadership. You approached this like I’m sure you do with most things in your life – humbly, practically, directly, joyfully, and confidently,” McArt continued.
Rutherford received a number of mementos, including the chair’s gavel and chair’s ring. He also received the chair’s award, presented in honor of the late Warren Jones for his leadership as the Association’s first chair. “You have joined a select group of leaders, like Warren, who have worn the RV Industry Association leadership mantle, and we hope this plaque will be a reminder of your many accomplishments and the special relationships you built while chair,” McArt announced.
Rutherford’s wife, Deb, also attended the event, where she was presented with a gift of gratitude for her support of Jeff during his time as Chair. “Deb, we are so glad you are here for this special occasion. On behalf of the Board and the RV Industry Association membership, thank you for supporting Jeff during his time as chair. It is an honor to present this crystal vase as a small expression of our gratitude,” McArt declared.
RVIA President and CEO Craig Kirby presented Jeff with the final gift: a scrapbook that included letters and photographs from fellow leaders in the industry.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude to you for your work as chair,” McArt said in closing. “It has been a pleasure working with you so closely on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee and I appreciate you showing me the ropes when I first joined the Board. Ladies and gentlemen, one more round of applause for our good friends Jeff and Deb Rutherford!”
Rutherford also made a few remarks at the chairman’s dinner. “When I first started in our industry, I was impressed by the RV Industry Association. I thought it was important for me to become involved at an industry-wide level in what would provide for my family throughout my career.”
“In 2001, I attended my first Committee Week,” Rutherford continued. “When I thought about what was important in the industry and what the RV Industry Association had accomplished over the years, I focused on the need for more trained service technicians and I think the industry has done a tremendous job closing that gap. We also ended up with the Emerging Leaders Coalition, which brings the next generation of future leaders into the industry. Two years ago we also started an initiative with campgrounds.”
“I think what I’m most proud of over the last two years is that we haven’t had a crisis,” he concluded. “And you can’t accomplish all of these things without having a great team behind you.”