A search committee has been assembled to find a successor for Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon. The move coincides with Coon’s announced retirement on Oct. 1 during this week’s RVIA Annual Meeting at the Ritz Carlton Resort in Sarasota, Fla.
Chaired by RVIA Chairman Derald Bontrager, president and CEO of Jayco Inc., the committee will include Dicor Corp. President Gregg Fore and Doug Gaeddert, a general manager for Forest River Inc. – both past RVIA chairmen – along with Gary Enyart of Cummins Inc., Matt Miller of Newmar Corp., Bob Parish of GE Capital, and Kevin Phillips of Thetford Corp.
The committee will meet next week, and they expect to announce a final candidate this summer, perhaps as early as RVIA Committee Week, May 31-June 4 in Washington, D.C.
“We will look both inside the industry and outside,” Bontrager said. “There are a lot of qualified candidates out there. We’re not necessarily looking for an RV industry expert. We’re more interested in somebody who’s a great leader. Some knowledge of the industry will be helpful, obviously, but we’re interested in a team builder who is able to adapt to what I believe are going to be some changes in the market and the industry with all the consolidation that’s going on and other challenges we’re facing.”
Bontrager said he anticipates the successor will have a few months of working alongside Coon prior to his retirement. “We think there needs to be some overlap, and the length of time will depend on who the candidate is, quite frankly, and their level of experience in the industry,” he said.
The overlap is similar to the six-month period in which Coon worked alongside his predecessor, David Humphreys. Coon thought that particular time period was excessive, but added “it all depends on the candidate.”
“Let’s say it’s someone within the organization, within RVIA – and there are candidates within RVIA – obviously that person is more up to speed than somebody coming from outside of the industry,” Coon said. “The sooner the better, obviously, that they identify somebody. Ideally, they might have an appointment by Committee Week, but that might be pretty quick. Having a three-month overlap probably would be about right.” Coon added that he’s willing to stay longer if more time is needed.
Fore said choosing Coon’s successor is going to be based on the “committee’s assumptions of what we see taking place over the next 10 years.”
“We don’t have any assumptions on candidates. I think we’ll find that we have several well-qualified candidates. The hard part will be selecting the person that best matches our thoughts on the future,” Fore said. “Certainly, during the next person’s tenure, there more than likely will be a downturn in the industry to some extent. All of us hope it’s not going to be very bad, but there will probably be one.
“We will continue to see retirement from our ranks in the association as the staff ages so we have to be prepared to manage that,” Fore continued. “We have to be prepared to manage the continued regulation and legislation issues. We have to continue to manage the likelihood of continued consolidation in the industry. So as we look at a candidate, we’ll be looking at those abilities and try to match the person with those abilities, and support that person staffwise to make sure that we’re well-rounded and well-grounded going into the future.”
Gaeddert said it’s too early in the process to discuss much about the search, but acknowledged there are “excellent candidates inside the association, but obviously also excellent candidates outside the association.”
“We’ll have to see what turns up, and we’ll go through a thorough process that Derald will lead us through,” Gaeddert said. “But there are no preconditions. I don’t have any preconceived notions personally. There’s a lot of talent out there. This is a fun industry and in a good place at a good time. Richard’s shoes will be tough to fill but we’ll fill them either internally or externally.”