RV/MH Museum Unveils ‘Wheel People’ Exhibit

October 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The 'Wheel People' Exhibit at the RV/MH Museum

“You don’t need a mansion on the hill to be somebody. It’s not the house but the people inside it.” That’s what Stephen Lee Duncan of Aurora, Colo., told Swiss citizen and photojournalist Frimmel Smith in 1998.

According to a press release, Duncan was among many people Smith interviewed and photographed in conjunction with the American Institute of Architecture to create a traveling exhibit entitled “Wheel People,” which tells the story of Americans who choose to live in manufactured homes in deference to site built housing. The “Wheel People” is now on permanent display at the RV/MH Museum.

The “Wheel People” exhibit was created in 1998-99 by Smith with the cooperation of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum and many state manufactured housing associations. She identified people throughout the country to interview and photograph and traveled for over one year assembling their stories into this exhibition.

After displaying the exhibit at locations around the country from Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., Biloxi, Miss., Chicago, and others, Smith donated the entire exhibit to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.

Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, said, “The ‘Wheel People’ exhibit is an excellent addition to our manufactured housing collection. It not only traces the evolution of manufactured housing from trailers to mobile homes and finally to manufactured homes, it also shows the diversity of those who choose to live in homes on wheels.

“From Maine to California, occupants include people of all ages and incomes, from college students to senior citizens; America’s wealthy and her poor as well as white and blue collar workers, artists, entrepreneurs, farmers, and health care professionals.”

He added, “Visitors to the museum will be able to tour historic examples of homes on wheels, experience the ‘Wheel People’ exhibit and then step outside to visit a modern manufactured home currently being constructed east of the museum facility-we expect the home, loaned and erected by Fairmont Homes, to be completed and opened to the public in early November.

“The RV and manufactured housing industries sprang from the same root, but evolved into two separate industries – recreational travel and affordable housing. It’s impossible to tell the story of one industry without including the other.

Searer said that the “Wheel People” exhibit adds an important and interesting chapter to our goal of telling our story and interpreting our heritage. “Even those who have visited the museum in the past, I encourage them to come by again as our exhibits are always changing and evolving,” he said.


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‘RV/MH Hall of Fame’ Rolls Out New Fundraiser

September 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

RV/MH Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer’s recent quadruple bypass heart surgery hasn’t diverted his attention from the Hall’s mission and goals, according to a press release. As he continues his recovery at home, Searer said, “We’ve come a long way in the past 18 months, but we still have some exciting opportunities ahead.”

When Searer volunteered to accept the position of president of the Hall in March 2012, his mission was to help the Hall get its financial house in order and to make the Hall debt free.

“While we are proud of the success of the original “$100,000 match” and the “Burn the Bank Note” campaign which paid off the bank loan in 13 months – more than three  years ahead of schedule – we still have two more loans to go before we are debt free,” he said. “This goal could not have been achieved without the generous support of members of the RV and manufactured housing industries, and especially, the Boots Ingram family who contributed $150,000 in matching grants toward retiring the bank note.”

Searer said the at of the two remaining notes, the $3 million note to the Ingram family is more pressing as “it will pay off with $2 million,” due to the Ingram’s 50% match on every principle payment. The other outstanding note is a $600,000 loan to the bank, which saved the Hall $565,000 in settling the debt for the antique RV collection.

With the original bank note retired, the Hall started making payments on the Ingram loan in August 2013, three years ahead of schedule. Searer said, “Under the amortization schedule the Ingram loan will be paid off by May of 2030. But I believe we can beat that, again, in part, because of the Ingram family’s generosity.”

He added, “As long as we meet our monthly obligations, the Ingram’s will match the principle payment by 50% which means the $3 million loan will pay off with $2 million. That means for every $100 contributed by individuals and companies in the RV/MH industries, the loan principle will be reduced by $150.”

Searer’s goal is for the Hall to be completely debt free by 2020, if not before.

For those who would like to make a contribution toward the Ingram family’s $1 million challenge grant, the Hall has made it easy to contribute. Contributions can be made through the Hall’s secure website by clicking here or by mail or phone. If paying by check or money order, make payable to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

$1 Million Ingram Family Challenge

RV/MH Hall of Fame
21565 Executive Parkway
Elkhart Indiana 46514

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Deadline Nears for ’14 RV/MH Hall Nominations

September 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Display area at the RV/MH Hall of Fame

With the Oct. 31 deadline fast approaching, the RV/MH Hall of Fame Selection Committee has issued a call for nominations for the Class of 2014.

RV/MH Hall of Fame Chairman Barry Cole noted, “If you know of anyone who you believe deserves to be nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame now is the time to send in his or her nomination. On a regular basis colleagues ask, ‘Why isn’t this person or that person in the Hall of Fame?’ Chances are, the reason is that no one has ever nominated them. My advice to them is, ‘nominate them – don’t wait for someone else to do it.'”

Darryl Searer, Hall president, added, “The Hall welcomes nominations from all RV and manufactured housing sectors, including manufacturers, dealers, campgrounds, housing communities, suppliers, user groups, trade media and associations, for the class of 2014 and beyond.”

The RV/MH Heritage Foundation board recently approved a new and improved process for nominating and has made the nomination guidelines and forms available online at”

According to the new guidelines, anyone can nominate a person to the Hall of Fame that meets the eligibility requirements. The only people who may not be considered are those who currently serve on the Hall’s Selection Committee. To be eligible the nominee must be, or have been, an active participant in any segment of the recreation vehicle or manufactured housing industries for a minimum of 25 years.

In addition, the nomination form must be filled out in its entirety and be accompanied by three supporting letters (no more, no less) that meet the Hall’s guidelines. Incomplete nominations cannot be considered. If the nominee is not selected within three years, he or she remains eligible only if the nomination is resubmitted and refreshed with additional information.

When evaluating a potential nominee, the selection committee will consider the nominee’s overall contributions to the good of the industry that include both his or her positions, accomplishments and innovations on the job as well as volunteer work both inside and outside the industry. Special emphasis is placed on volunteer work done on behalf of state and national associations and owner groups, the Hall of Fame itself and other industry-related organizations and causes. Favorable responses to these two basic questions are good starting points for Hall consideration.

If a completed nomination form and three properly prepared seconding letters are received by Oct. 31 of any year, the nominee will be in the pool of candidates considered for the following year’s class and for two years beyond that if not selected that year. The Hall’s Selection Committee will announce its selections in January and those chosen will be honored at the Hall’s Annual Induction dinner in August. The Hall’s bylaws allow for up to 10 inductees per year.

Cole said, “The Selection Committee is made up of an equal number of members of the RV and manufactured housing industries, and members will only vote on nominees from their respective industries.”

Once the nomination form and supporting letters have been completed, the nominations may be submitted by mail, in person at the Hall, or by fax at (574) 293-3466.

“Time is running out for nominations to the Hall’s Class of 2014,” Cole said, “so I urge my colleagues to honor their friends and co-workers by submitting their nominations before the Oct. 31 deadline.”

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Searer Recovering from Heart Bypass Surgery

August 22, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Darryl Searer

Darryl Searer, president of the RV/MH Hall of Fame, is progressing well after undergoing a successful emergency quadruple bypass surgery yesterday (Aug. 21) morning at the Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind.

“Over the past weekend Darryl suffered what he considered possibly symptoms of a heart attack and contacted his cardiologist,” said Hall Chairman Barry Cole in a press release. “An examination on Monday proved inconclusive so more extensive tests, including an exploratory heart procedure, were conducted on Tuesday. His doctor concluded that Searer, in fact, had suffered a mild heart attack and his condition serious enough that he should undergo immediate emergency quadruple bypass surgery.”

In addition to his duties at the Hall, Searer is also the semi-retired chairman of Ultra-Fab Products, Inc., an Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier of OEM and aftermarket RV products.

“He is blessed by catching this in time, and please join me in sending a prayer his way as he continues his recovery,” said Cole.

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Crean Foundation Gives Fleetwood RVs to Hall

August 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

John Crean's 1985 working prototype for the iconic Bounder

The RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum, based on the northeast side of Elkhart, Ind., recently received a collection of historic Fleetwood RVs from the early days of now defunct Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif.

According to a press release, the coaches were donated by the Crean Foundation. “Andy Crean, son of Fleetwood founder and Hall of Fame member John Crean, acquired these RVs from the bankruptcy of Fleetwood Enterprises specifically to present to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in his father’s memory,” noted Hall President Darryl Searer,

The RVs, now on display in the museum, include a 1950 12-foot Fleetwood Sporter that was the very first trailer built when Fleetwood grew out of Coach Specialties Co., a builder of venetian blinds for trailers. Also donated were a Fleetwood Sportster, a later version of the same trailer; a 1969 Pace Arrow that was the first motorhome produced by Fleetwood; and John Crean’s 1985 working prototype for the iconic 1986-87 Bounder which introduced the basement model concept to RVs.

Accompanying the early RVs is an extensive collection of Fleetwood documents and memorabilia from the company’s early days which will be added to RV/MH library collections.

1947 Westcraft 24-foot Westwood Coronado trailer

“After learning of the Crean Foundation’s gift, we faced the problem of the costs of transporting the collection from California to the museum in Indiana,” Searer said. “That problem was solved when Wilbur Bontrager (Jayco Inc.) and Joel Pladson (RV transport company Starfleet) agreed to underwrite the expense and bring the collection to Elkhart. This collection of early Fleetwood RVs adds a new dimension to the museum’s extensive inventory of historic RVs.”

In addition to the Fleetwood collection, the RV/MH museum received a 1947 Westcraft 24-foot Westwood Coronado from its original owner, John Culp, who purchased it in 1947 upon his return from duty with the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He used it continuously for 65 years, traveling throughout the U.S. and snowbirding each winter in Florida.

Culp, a charter member of the Tin Can Tourists vintage trailer club, and his trailer appeared in many TV documentaries on vintage trailer life. The Westcraft trailer is displayed on the large patio in front of the Hall of Fame building.

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Coast Posts Strong 2Q Income on Higher Sales

August 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Coast Distribution System Inc., one of North America’s largest aftermarket suppliers of replacement parts, accessories and supplies for the recreational vehicle and outdoor recreation industries, today reported a 117.7% increase in net income on improved sales for its second quarter, ended June 30.

Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Coast posted earning of $1.1 million, or 23 cents per diluted share, up from $0.5 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, in the second quarter. Sales for the quarter increased 4.3% to $35.6 million compared to net sales of $34.1 million in the second quarter of 2012, primarily as a result of strengthening economic conditions and increasing consumer confidence.

Coast noted it has been slowly reducing its presence in the marine aftermarket this year. As a result, the increase in overall net sales reflects stronger growth in RV market sales offset by a decrease in sales to the marine market. Also contributing to the increase was an increase in sales of Coast’s higher margin proprietary products to specialty retailers and mass merchandisers, which represents a relatively new distribution channel for the company.

Gross profit in the second quarter of 2013 increased by $1.5 million, to $7.1 million, resulting in an increase in gross margin to 20.1% from 16.4% in the same quarter of 2012. SG&A increased 7.4% to $5.1 million from $4.8 million in the prior year while operating income more than doubled to $2 million from $0.8 million.

For the first six months, Coast reported a net profit of $158,000, or 3 cents per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $841,000, or 18 cents per diluted share for the same period in 2012. Net sales increased 4.5% to $61 million from $58.4 million the year prior. The increased sales resulted in a 26% increase in gross profits to $11.3 million in $9 million in the same period of 2012. The increase in gross profits was partially offset by a $737,000, or 7.5%, increase in SG&A expenses in the six months ended June 30, 2013. As a result of these factors, Coast reported operating income of $0.8 million in the first six months of 2013 compared to an operating loss of $0.8 million for the first six months of 2012.

“We have maintained a strategic focus on growing market share and focusing on expanding sales of our higher-margin proprietary products. In the second quarter that strategy began to pay off as we saw a 27% improvement in gross profit on a much smaller increase in net sales, highlighting the profit opportunity associated with our proprietary products and new market channels. We have also seen gathering momentum in the RV market as consumers have continued to engage in the RV lifestyle, which is a strong driver for our business,” said Coast’s CEO Jim Musbach. “We remain committed to our strategic goal for 2013 of returning to profitability through continued investment in our higher-margin proprietary products. We plan to establish new product supply relationships, including relationships that enable us to increase the products that we source from lower cost, but high-quality, overseas suppliers, to support our growth strategy as we focus on our rapidly recovering core RV market. All of these factors make us confident about our ability to achieve our profit goals for the full year.”

To view the entire report click here.

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RV/MH Hall of Fame Elects New Board Members

August 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The RV/MH Hall of Fame recently elected seven new members to its board, according to a press release.

“These new board members will join the existing board members in helping us meet the challenges as we move forward and take the Hall of Fame to new levels of success,” said Chairman Barry Cole.

The new board members include: Dick Jennison, Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) (MH); Joe Stegmayer, Cavco Industries Inc. (MH); Mark Wasson, Bluelinx Corp. (RV, MH); Mick Ferkey, Greeneway RV (RV); Dana Nelsen, RV Pro Magazine (RV); Beverly Gardner, RV Business Magazine (RV); and Raymond Padgett, Blue Ox (RV).

Filling out the Hall’s board are: Barry Cole,* chairman, MH Insurance Services (MH); Darryl Searer,* president/treasurer, RV/MH Hall of Fame/Ultra-Fab Products Inc. (RV); Jay Hesse,* vice chairman, Blue Ox (RV); Ross Kinzler,* secretary, Wisconsin Housing Alliance (MH); Bill Garpow.* past chairman, Retired RPTIA (RV); Bob Fields,* Aridian Technology Co. (RV); B.J. Thompson,* BJ Thompson Associates (RV); Jim Scoular,* Jimsco (MH); Gary LaBella,* Former RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer , retired (RV); John Evans, E & R MH/RV Window Service (RV, MH); Leo Poggione, Craftsman Homes Inc. (MH); Bob Livingston, Trailer Life, Motorhome Magazine (RV); Ron Younkin, Greenlawn Companies (MH); Mike Schneider, MAS Associates (RV); Don Magary, Web Site Management/RV News Magazine  (RV). (*asterisk indicates members on the board’s executive committee).

The following members retired from the board having served their terms: Sherman Goldenberg, RV Business Magazine (RV); and Ron Wheeler, Wheeler Advertising (RV).

Searer noted, “It has been a pleasure serving with Sherman Goldenberg and Ron Wheeler.  Their guidance and support during the Hall of Fame’s dramatic turnaround over the past year was invaluable and I’ll miss their support and sage advice.”


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Midwest RV Show Opens Aug. 8 at Hall of Fame

August 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The 58th Annual Midwest RV Super Show will be held at the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum in Elkhart, Ind., set to run Aug. 8-11. According to a press release, the show will offer a look at all-new 2014 models and include participating eight dealerships.

“We had a tremendous response from dealers for this year’s show,” said Matt Rose, director of recreation vehicles for Indianapolis-based Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA-RVIC) which hosts the show. “The show is the biggest it’s been in recent years. Last year we had a great show with eight dealers represented. This year we have 13 dealers, from right here in Elkhart and also from as far away as Schererville, Burns Harbor and Greenfield.”

Rose said the event will attract attendees from all over the Midwest.

“Consumer confidence remains high and financing today is reasonable and readily available” he added. “Our dealers have reported fantastic sales this summer and are bringing an incredible amount of product to the show.”

Rose said the event will attract attendees from all over the Midwest.

“Consumer confidence remains high and financing today is reasonable and readily available” he added. “Our dealers have reported fantastic sales this summer and are bringing an incredible amount of product to the show.”

The Hall of Fame offers a convenient location for regional attendees and easy access to the show for travelers. In addition, organizers will be offering a show package that includes admission to the Hall of Fame Museum.

The show kicks off Thursday at 10 a.m. and will run through the weekend.

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RV/MH Hall Honors Dreamers and Hard Workers

August 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer addressed induction ceremony attendees

More than 400 people made the annual pilgrimage Monday night (Aug. 5) to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., to honor the latest inductees into the Hall.

Nine industry pioneers or their family members came forward to receive praise and appreciation for the sacrifices and devotion to the intertwined RV and manufactured housing industries, two industries with deep roots in the greater Elkhart area.

On the RV side, inductees were Kirwan M. Elmers, Lawrence C. Lippert and Thomas R. Walworth along with the late Clarence M. Fore and Matthew M. Perlot.

As president of Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), Grand Rapids, Mich., Walworth established the company as the recognized official scorecard for sales in the RV and manufactured housing industries in the U.S. and Canada. His data is relied upon for marketing planning by every major company in both industries. He also served for over 20 years on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Market Information Committee.

Walworth noted that in his 35-year career with SSI, he has had the honor of working directly with 70 of the 339 inductees in the Hall of Fame.

He praised both the RV and MH industries as the “best examples of capitalism,” adding, “With the capitalistic spirit, you can do whatever you want.”

Walworth named a long list of industry pioneers, including Thor Industries Inc. Founder Wade Thompson and Forest River Inc. founder Pete Liegl (both Hall inductees), as examples of “dreamers and hard workers” who achieved the American dream.

He said each person has a “compass” which steers him through life and for him, it has been God, his family and SSI.

Another dreamer was Clarence M. Fore, who started drawing plans for his first motorhome in 1966 and built it under the pine trees in his back yard in Nacogdoches, Texas. Fore drove his first unit to an RV show in Elkhart in 1967 to make contacts and find suppliers in the Elkhart area.

Fore almost shut the business down after five years because he was losing $1,000 on every coach he built. He was one of the early users of fiberglass front and rear caps and side panels. He pioneered dual roof air conditioning units and central vacuum systems in RVs and was the first to build motorhomes on monocoque chassis.

He is credited with being the first to develop an owners club for his consumers. Fore led the concept of factory-owned stores by creating factory outlets in major markets around the country.

Fore died Aug. 5, 2011, exactly two years prior to his induction. His grandson, Tyle Fore, accepted the award on his grandfather’s behalf.

Inductees on the RV side included (L-R) Thomas Walworth, Lawrence Lippert and Kirwan Elmers

Mathew M. Perlot, founder of Safari Motorhomes, Junction City, Ore., also did not live to see his induction into the Hall, passing away in October 2012. But if he were alive, his son, Martin, said on his behalf in accepting the honor, he would have been a feisty inductee.

Perlot was known as a “rebel” in the industry for his unconventional approach to business. He introduced affordable diesel pushers to the RV world and patented the electronic “magic bed’ that raises to the ceiling to provide additional living space.

He took Safari and Beaver public in 1996 and eventually sold to Monaco Coach.

Martin Perlot described his father as a fierce competitor, noting that he would have arrived in Elkhart, discovered that competitor Bob Lee of Country Coach had already been inducted (in 2000) and said, “Bob Lee got here first? Finish your drinks, son, we’re out of here!”

But Martin Perlot said his father’s induction has allowed he and his brother, Dave, to step back and further appreciate their father’s accomplishments and contributions to the RV industry.

The fourth RV inductee, Elmers, co-founded with his father Custom Coach in Columbus, Ohio, in 1955. The first firm to commercially convert buses into RVs, Custom Coach installed the first automatic transmission in an inner-city bus shell (in 1956), installed the first back-up camera in an RV (in 1965) and was the first to install cruise control (in 1967).

Elmers also served on the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Commercial Council since the mid-1960s and was chairman from 1990 to 1999.

Perhaps more than any other inductee, Elmers personifies the perseverance that characterizes the RV industry. Elmers’ parents were told at birth that their son had a weak heart, couldn’t compete in sports and wouldn’t live past the age of 40.

Not only was he able to travel to all 48 states with his father on business trips by the time he was in high school, he was able to celebrate his 85th birthday recently.

Lippert also started his own company in 1955 in Alma, Mich., with two employees – he and his wife – first supplying to the manufactured housing industry with aluminum and steel roofing.

In 1959, he began LCI’s chassis and chassis parts business. The company enjoyed steady growth until Lippert’s retirement in 1977 when he handed the reins to his son, L. Douglas Lippert. Today, as part of Drew Industries Inc., LCI is one of the largest suppliers to the mobile home and recreational vehicle industries, employing more than 5,100 people in 11 states. It provides everything from frames and chassis to roof materials, axles, countertops, mattresses, draperies and furniture.

Lippert remarked that LCI today does a greater sales volume in a half day than his firm produced in an entire year. The company is recognized as a generous corporate citizen. His grandson, Jason Lippert, now runs the company.

From the manufactured housing side, inductees were:

• Craig M. Bollman, Mobile Home Communities.

• Theresa Desfosses, State Manufactured Homes.

• Thomas P. Meyers, Guerdon Industries.

• Claude N. Palmer (deceased), Palmer Homes.

State of the Hall

In his “State of the Hall” address, Darryl Searer, president and treasurer of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation, reported that the Hall of Fame “is in even better (financial) shape than I reported last year.”

Developments this year have included burning the outstanding bank note; a final $600,000 payout to David Woodworth and his wife for their RV collection that now is on display at the Hall; a final settlement with the city of Elkhart on an outstanding water bill for which the city forgave a $150,000 debt; and presentation of a preliminary check to the family of Boots Ingram three years earlier than expected.

The Ingram family has agreed it will match 50% of every dollar paid toward the principal payment going forward, Searer said. Revenue over the past year has risen 40% over a year earlier, he added. With these developments, Searer said, he hopes the Hall will be debt-free by the end of this decade.

In other developments, Searer noted that Fairmont Homes has broken ground on a multi-section manufactured housing display on the Hall’s grounds. The Hall’s website continues to undergo improvements, and there is a new website for the Hall’s commercial facility, doing business as the Northern Indiana Event Center.

Searer recognized staff and volunteers and presented the Hall of Fame Spirit Award to Tom and Charlene McNulty, who have worked at the Hall for the past 25 years.

Dick Jennison, president of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), gave the keynote address. He reported that after a prolonged downturn, the manufactured housing industry is on a steady upturn, with shipments growing 16% since 2010.

He said tight mortgage lending and government overregulation continue to hamper the industry, but he cited several victories this past year bode well for the future. He called for industry unity to wage a campaign against the outdated perceptions of the manufactured housing industry.

Forty-six golfers competed in the annual Hall of Fame Golf Classic at Bent Oak Golf Course in Elkhart earlier in the day. Foursomes representing Lippert Components finished first and second.

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HOF Names White to Head Event Center Sales

July 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Jeff White

The RV/MH Hall of Fame has named Jeff White sales and marketing manager for the Northern Indiana Event Center (NIEC) with additional duties within the Hall. According to a press release, White assumed his new position on July 22.

White’s responsibilities include promoting events at the NIEC and to coordinate booth sales in the Hall’s Supplier Hall.

“We are delighted to have Jeff join our team at Northern Indiana Event Center and also assist with duties at the RV/MH Hall of Fame,” said Darryl Searer, Hall president. “He is an extremely capable person with an excellent sales background; plus, he’s a team player. He is the type of person we need to help lead the NIEC and Hall into the future and attain new successes.”

White earned an associate’s degree from Vincennes University in 1987 and joined Homes & Lifestyles Magazine Inc. in 1990. He brings more than 20 years experience in sales, training and new markets development to his new position at the Elkhart, Ind.-based Hall and NIEC.

White lives with his wife Denise and daughter Marissa in Osceola, Ind.

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