Editor’s Note: The following is a letter penned by former Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Mike Molino to Sherry Shields, wife of Jim Shields, who passed away Thursday (Feb. 13) after a long battle with cancer. Shields, president of Pan Pacific RV Centers, a northern California dealership, was a key figure in industry affairs and served in several capacities for RVDA, including chairman. He was also a founder and president of CalRVDA. The letter appears on Molino’s website.
I want you, your family, and your company team to know that I consider Jim a truly “great” man to me, to our association, and to our industry.
Jim was a dedicated student of the industry. Few dealers understand dealership processes as well as Jim. Even fewer understand dealer-manufacturer relations like Jim. He earned the respect and admiration of his fellow dealers and manufacturers and suppliers, as well. Many dealers called upon Jim for advice in times of crisis as well as when they were in a planning mode.
Jim did an especially superb job as RVDA chairman. He came to the position with credibility. He had been a founder and president of CalRVDA. He also had several tours on the RVDA board as well as the CalRVDA board. RVDA accomplished much under Jim’s wise leadership. The association represented RV dealers more visibly at the federal level than ever before. It was Jim’s urging that put me, as RVDA president, before Congress to testify about FEMA’s auctioning practices. Our testimony and follow-on dialogue caused FEMA to change its practices.
Jim encouraged the association to become more active in educating the Congress on the impact of CAFÃ‰ standards on towing capacity. He saw RVers as conservationists, truly “green.” He advocated for sensible laws and regulations that saved energy and curbed pollution while preserving the capacity to tow trailers. He also urged the engineers at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler to ensure that towing capacity continued to be on their priority list as they developed more efficient pick-up trucks. Jim was never shy about a cause that he believed in.
As he left the chair of RVDA, I reminded Jim that he had a right to be especially proud of the industry programs he helped put in motion. He was the driving force behind the efforts to improve the safety and functionality of forklifts for use in dealerships. He proposed revisions to board composition to expand the range of voices and opinions in RVDA’s leadership, won approval for major revisions to the annual Dealer Satisfaction Index Survey, and increased the number of training opportunities that have since been available to dealership employees. Jim was also a leader in the combined industry effort to improve product quality and after-the-sale service. Jim did not want the credit. He took satisfaction in just seeing the progress.
Jim was also a mentor. He helped develop the strong RVDA leadership that followed him. All of his officers rose to chairman of RVDA. Jeff Pastore, the first vice chairman, succeeded Jim; Second Vice Chairman Larry Trout, succeeded Jeff. Treasurer Debbie Brunoforte succeeded Larry; and his secretary, Tim O’Brien, followed Debbie. Jim remained active and helped each of these successors, and me, navigate successfully through the toughest economic period that the association had ever faced. Phil Ingrassia, the current RVDA president, often tells me how much Jim helped him with industry issues as an active past-chairman.
It is gratifying that RVDA awarded Jim its highest honor, the James B. Summers Award, in October 2013, and that his fellow dealers and industry colleagues were successful in getting Jim nominated to the RV/MH Hall of Fame. I just wish he could have lived to see his formal induction. I sensed his humility and gratefulness when we were able to congratulate him on the phone.
Jim deserved all these honors and more. As a spiritual man who loved the Lord and was an active supporter of his church, Jim’s greatest honor may have come when, as you stated in your note, “He entered into Heaven early this morning after a long, brave battle.”
May the Lord bless you and you family. Jim will be watching!