July '18

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Page 149 of 188

Bob Zagami, Executive Director, New England RV Dealers Association I became involved in the RV industry through a chance conversation with Don Magary after RV News launched RVAmerica Online, the first RV industry trade website. Don said he was impressed with my knowl- edge of the industry and wondered who I worked for. He was very surprised to learn I was in the document imaging industry – not the RV industry. I had studied the RV industry as a hobby since I bought my first RV, a Rockwood Class C motor- home, in 1978. Don asked me to write for the magazine, after finding out I wrote for several imaging industry magazines. He wanted to know what I would charge for my articles. I told him it would cost him nothing. I wanted to write for nothing until I had earned the right to be "in" the RV industry. I did not take a penny from RV News for the first four years. My initial goal was to establish myself in the industry by earning the respect of Don Magary and Dan Holt first, and then others in the industry. I also wanted the freedom to be totally independent and write about topics in the industry that I wanted to champion on the pages of the magazine. My independence to write about challenging topics, some of which would be uncomfortable to many in the industry, was paramount in earning the respect of the industry. After a few years, Dan and Don sent me to the National RV Trade Show in 1999 with all expenses paid and with no assignments. I was to attend the show and do what I wanted to do, select my own stories to report on, take photographs of RVs that caught my attention. I was truly the "kid in the candy store" and spent every possible moment on the show floor. I was so excited upon returning from Louisville, that I wrote four stories and shot about 400 photographs … and that was on analog film in cannisters. This was the turning point of taking this from just being a hobby, to something I wanted to do as a paid journalist. Becoming the executive director of the New England RV Dealers Association was never something I considered, or even imagined. After the former executive director was replaced and the association was in shambles, Jeff Hirsch of Campers Inn asked me if I would take over the association and see if we could salvage it. When I took over, we had no members, no money and the annual show was in danger. Fast forward to 2018 and we now have 35 dealers from all six states, almost 20 associate members, an incredible consumer show in Boston, and a myriad of programs and services for our members. Maintaining an independent voice and speaking my mind when the situations call for it is something I am proud of. But hands down my best accomplishment was being able to build NERVDA to a position of respect. The best part was having fun while working with everyone in the association to be proud of what we have today. RV PRO: Origins July 2018 • RV PRO • 139

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