LAS VEGAS — At the RV Dealers Association’s annual meeting today, Jeff Hirsch, president of Campers Inn RV, received the James B. Summers Award, the group’s highest honor.
The award is named for RVIA’s second chief staff officer of this association, who was also the first to receive it.
The RVDA Board of Directors chooses this honoree by secret written ballot from nominations made by members.
“This year’s recipient is someone who has been deeply involved in RVDA for many years,” said Phil Ingrassia, president of RVDA, who presented the award to Hirsch in front of an assembled group of prior award winners.
“He is a second generation dealer who has built his dealership group into a major force within the industry, while continuing to serve his fellow dealers in the association in many capacities.” he added. “This includes three stints on the RVDA Board of Directors, service on the RV Learning Center Board, and on the Go RVing Coalition.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with many great volunteer leaders during my time at RVDA, and there’s no one more deserving to join the group standing behind me than Jeff Hirsch, of Campers Inn,” said Ingrassia.
Hirsch recounted his first mission on behalf of RVDA, a trip to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office during the height of the second oil crisis in the late 1970s when Hirsch was only 23 years old.
“I spoke to an aide who told me I should get out of the business because the country was running out of oil, and the big gas guzzlers that towed RVs were being forced to give way to four-cylinder cars,” he explained. “I left dejected, but more determined than ever to help RVDA develop a voice.
“Knowing that government could play such a detrimental role in regulating businesses, and understanding how political the environment was, I realized that RVDA needed a unified and influential voice in Washington,” said Hirsch.
Chairman’s service awards
Brian Wilkins, outgoing chairman of the RV Dealers Association, presented several service awards during the meeting.
Hirsch was the first person to receive that award as well with Wilkins referring to him as someone who provided great counsel on the issues facing the association and individual dealers.
“Jeff has been a great mentor. Having served as chair a few years prior to me, he provided me with leadership and guidance and helped me build a comfort level as I took this role,” said Wilkins. “Jeff is a tireless worker for RVDA, the RV Learning Center, and continues his service on the Board as RV Assistance Corporation Chairman, where he works with the staff and volunteer leaders to identify new opportunities to serve members.
“I don’t know of anybody who burns up more cell phone minutes than Jeff – and a lot of those minutes are used on RVDA business,” he added.
Mike Regan, from Crestview RV Center in Buda, Texas, also received a Chairman’s Service Award.
“As you’ve heard, Mike serves RVDA as treasurer and as chairman of the audit and finance committee,” said Wilkins. “We could not have a strong association without a strong financial foundation, and Mike has a great understanding of RVDA’s revenue streams and expenditures on your behalf.
“Mike and I have been in a 20 group together for about 15 years. He’s a friend, he’s a strong voice on the board, and he’s a passionate advocate for dealers with our industry partners,” he added.
Mike Neal, from Brown & Brown Insurance, was also recognized for his commitment to dealer education.
“Mike has always understood hat if his dealer clients are successful, his company will be successful,” said Wilkins. “This year, Brown & Brown made a $100,000 pledge to the RV Learning Center in tribute to former RV Rental Association chairman Bert Alanko of MBA. In addition, Brown & Brown is a bronze partner of this year’s convention, as is MBA.”
The final Chairman’s Service Award was presented to Tom Walworth, of Statistical Surveys.
“Tom is the RV industry’s retail scorekeeper and is constantly striving to improve RV industry sales data reporting, which is not an easy job when you are dealing with state DMVs who control the RV registration information,” Wilkins explained.
“The latest innovation from Statistical Surveys is the Spotfire program, which is a valuable tool to help us understand RV demand in our local markets — and it’s an RVDA-endorsed product,” he added. “With all he has to do, Tom is incredibly accessible and speaks at many industry events throughout the year.”
The RVDA convention takes place this week at Bally’s in Las Vegas. More than 600 dealers and their staff members are participating in this year’s show.