CalARVC honors Debbie Sipe for a lifetime of service

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PLYMOUTH, Calif. — Debbie Sipe, the longtime executive director of California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) and CEO of Camp California Marketing, received an award recognizing her nearly three decades of service during the CalARVC RV Park Day earlier this month.

Sipe, who has held the top positions at CalARVC and Camp California Marketing for nearly two decades, plans to retire from both positions at the end of July.

CalARVC President Randy Hendrickson presented Sipe with an award on behalf of CalARVC’s Board of Directors.

“In the many years we have worked together, I have never known a more caring and charismatic leader,” Hendrickson said.

“Her work for the association is the stuff of legend, as is her reputation. I don’t believe I have ever known anyone who cares as much about our industry as Debbie,” he added.

“While focusing primarily on California, of course, her passion and respect for the industry nationwide is awe-inspiring and an example to all of us that no matter who we are, and whatever role we may have, we are all connected in the interest of bettering the outdoor hospitality industry,” said Hendrickson.

“For those fortunate enough to have worked with Debbie over the years, we have been privileged to witness not only her numerous accomplishments, but also her unassailable character as a person,” he added.

“That is what truly distinguishes her, and like so many others she has touched, I am proud to call her not only a true leader, but also a person I am very proud to call my friend,” Hendrickson said.

Sipe was cheered by the 60 park operators and industry vendors who attended the April 3 Spring RV Park Day and embraced by members of the CalARVC Board of Directors.

Sipe has spent her whole life in the campground business. Her parents, Tug and Judy Miller, helped run CalARVC from its inception, back in the days when it was known as the California Travel Parks Association (CTPA).

The Millers built the Auburn KOA, which they opened in 1974 and continued to operate until they sold it in 1984. Sipe grew up working at the campground and started working for CTPA in 1981, during her first year at California State University, Sacramento, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Sipe initially managed CTPA’s Camper Club, which included a subscription to a monthly magazine, the annual printed campground directory and campground discounts. She managed CTPA’s Camper Club at the same time she worked as office manager for the Auburn KOA.

Sipe was promoted to executive director of CTPA in 2004, which became CalARVC on Jan. 1, 2008. Camp-California Marketing was formed in 2002 and Sipe became its CEO in 2004 at the same time she assumed the leadership of CTPA.

Kelley set to replace Sipe

Dyana Kelley, a life-long RV enthusiast, backpacker and former REI outdoor travel guide, will assume Sipe’s duties at CalARVC on Aug. 1.

Kelley joined CalARVC June 1 to manage the association’s marketing, and was selected to replace Sipe after a nationwide executive search.

The April 3 RV Park Day at 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth included informal roundtable meetings with more than half a dozen experts in a variety of business topics of interest to park operators.

Kelley talked about how to differentiate between simply providing basic customer service and providing guests with experiences that they will appreciate and remember.

Basic customer service, she warned, can fall flat like “a mediocre date.” But when park employees focus on creating exceptionally positive experiences for their guests, the whole dynamic changes.

“Consider a family that arrives at a park with a lengthy check-in line after a long drive. Instead of simply having them wait their turn, and become frustrated at having to wait to check in after a long trip, send a staff member out to offer the kids free popsickles while they wait,” Kelley explained.

“It’s a nice touch and an inexpensive way to diffuse the situation and create a positive impression of the park, even under challenging circumstances,” she added.

CalARVC’s RV Park Day

While CalARVC’s RV Park Day took place April 3, the event was preceded by two educational workshops the afternoon of April 2 by Scott Charters of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based MorePro Marketing, and Wade Elliott of Utility Supply Group in Kingston, Wash.

Charters talked about how park operators are increasingly being targeted by lawsuits if their websites are not easily accessible to people with disabilities.

He said close to 2,250 lawsuits were filed in 2018, which targeted business websites over their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), up from 800 in 2017.

Wade Elliott of Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group led a pre-RV Park Day workshop on reverse polarity. He addressed a variety of other topics involving electrical pedestals and metering during subsequent roundtable discussions.

Dan Thiem, co-owner of The Inn Town Campground in Nevada City, spoke with park operators about things they can do to improve their efficiency and lessen their impact on the environment.

That includes investing in LED lighting, low flow water valves, high efficiency windows and shades. He also talked about the advantages of allowing only gas fires at his campground, which is in an area of the Sierra forested with pine and dogwood trees.

Other speakers include:

  • Charlie Curry, founder of Tents for Troops.
  • Damian Petty, of Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Insurance.
  • Cesar Ponce, program manager for mobile home parks and special occupancy parks with the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • Curtis Ewing,with the California Department of Forestry.
  • Dan Rudderow, a Newport Beach-based attorney specializing in RV park issues.
  • Becca Sipe, of CalARVC, who talked about ways park operators can enhance their marketing through Camp-California.com.

The next CalARVC RV Park Day event is scheduled for Sept. 24-25 at Cava Robles RV Resort in Paso Robles.

For more information, visit www.calarvc.org.

SOURCE: California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at editor@rvdailyreport.com.

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