Max Durbin, an FMCA member from North Fort Myers, Fla., passed away March 4. He was 79.
Although I saw him in person only a few times a year and only knew him in a professional capacity, boy do I miss him.
Any time I hear of emerging legislation or regulations that affect the motorhome lifestyle — which is practically every day — I think of Max.
He chaired FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee from 1999 to 2009, advising members on how to cope with parking restrictions and other legal issues concerning the use of their motorhome.
Prior to joining FMCA in 1986, Max’s professional career included stints as police chief and city administrator of Kirkwood, Mo., and as chief of police of Flint, Mich. He retired in 1985 as police commissioner of Warren, Mich.
Max’s background in city management and law enforcement helped to shape FMCA’s positions on national matters such as lemon laws, safety issues, and new highway laws and regulations.
I always admired his knowledge of municipal and state government. But in my mind, his most impressive trait was his sincere and unwavering desire to help fellow FMCA members.
I can still hear him saying, adamantly:
“Todd, we need to help this fellow down in Florida who’s not permitted to park his motorhome on his lot.”
“Todd, we’ve got to help these members out in California who …”
“Todd, we need to get this information out there to our members so they know what to do …”
When visiting FMCA’s national office, he’d stop by my desk and we’d talk about the latest issues. Sometimes, he’d expound on the intricacies of setbacks, lot lines, building lines and types of residential lots. Sometimes, I never knew where the conversation was headed.
I thought I knew a fair amount about zoning, until I met Max. He’d seen it all.
At the national office, he conducted his committee meetings in a professional manner, following the rules of order to a T. Yes, he would go off on a tangent at times — with all those years of public service, he had many experiences to share. Most of the time, they had a bearing on the topic at hand.
When it came to issues that jeopardized motorhome owners’ rights — parking restrictions, fees, taxes, tolls, motorhome length limits, you name it — he tackled them with a grit and determination that belied his laid-back demeanor.
He believed in acting swiftly to reverse existing legislation, suppress unfair proposals or at least help the parties involved to arrive at a compromise solution.
To that end, he was always quick to draft a letter or e-mail articulating FMCA’s position on or reaction to proposed legislation. I could only imagine the hours he spent writing letters, e-mails and making phone calls to alert members to potential negative ordinances or to ask them to support motorhome-friendly issues.
In 2005 Max was particularly ardent about developing an RV parking rights audiovisual presentation. He called it a “dog-and-pony” show. I acted like I knew what he meant.
More local governments were restricting the parking of RVs on private lots, he told me. Our members needed help in presenting their case to councils and planning boards.
In addition to completing the dog-and-pony show project, the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee accomplished much more under Max’s leadership. [see Max’s highlights]
Like all members of FMCA’s standing committees, Max worked for no compensation and little fanfare. I used to ask myself, What drives this guy? He’s retired. He’s got a great hobby that enables him to see the country, visit his kids.
As I worked with him more, I realized his motivation was this: a genuine compassion for fellow members whose motorhome rights were in jeopardy.
His “pay” was the satisfaction in knowing that the committee’s work may have helped to halt an ordinance, or that the committee’s efforts helped a favorable bill pass in a legislature. When he’d call to tell me about a success, I could hear the glee in his voice and could picture his satisfied grin.
One more thing about Max …. I noticed that he invariably praised the committee for its “important work,” and often singled out individual committee members for their efforts. And he always, always thanked me for the “fine work” I was doing. Meanwhile, he’d downplay his role, when in fact he was the guiding light.
Since Max’s passing, I have sensed a void, and rightly so. Whenever a member contacted FMCA about parking rights — or just about any other issue — Max was always there. He knew what to do. FMCA could always count on him.
But the more I think about it, he’s still here.
The Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee will continue to support and advise members who encounter parking rights problems. And Max, because he left an inspiring trail of dedication and leadership, will always be here.
Thank you, Max.
Max Durbin, 1929–2009
Max was born on June 29, 1929, in St. Louis, Mo. Survivors include his wife, Joanne (nee Rabe) Durbin; daughters, Donna A. Mitchell and Ruth M. Radcliffe; sons, Cary T. Durbin, Mark E. Durbin and Paul M. Durbin; sister, Catherine Marie Volk; grandchildren; and great-grandchildren.Max Durbin’s FMCA service
Legislative Advisory Committee (Member): 1998 to 1999
Legislative Advisory Committee (Chairman): 1999 to 2009
International Area Organization (INTO) Secretary: 2001 to 2002
International Area Organization (INTO) President: 2002 to 2005
Executive Committee: 2002 to 2005
Cincinnati Support Committee: 2007 to 2009
Comments from friends, colleagues
“I had the pleasure of knowing Max for only a short time. I was appointed to the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee in 2007. He immediately took me under his wing to impart as much of his knowledge as he could. It became clear to me immediately that Max was a man of great knowledge, experience, strength and dedication. He was incredibly generous with himself and he cared greatly about the future of the committee.
“Had he not passed away, I know he intended to step down in the near future -- he was looking forward to time with Joanne when she finished her term as FMCA’s national secretary. But, Max wasn't going to leave the committee until he knew that it was in good and competent hands. He was willing to take the time to make sure that those who remained on the committee would continue to perform to the very high standards that he set during his tenure. There is no way that Frank, Paul and I or future committee members will ever replace Max and his contribution to FMCA, but we are determined to try to make Max proud of our ongoing efforts.”
Interim chair, GLA Committee
“Max Durbin entered our lives in the summer of 2002 when he responded to a suggestion I'd made to my FMCA Chapter for highway signage indicating it was safe for recreational vehicles to enter, park and exit specific locations.
“His support and guidance encouraged me to pursue that idea with state government. That path led to our participation with the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee and the opportunity to see some of Max's contributions to FMCA.
“He taught the committee how to help individual members with local parking issues. His ‘community service’ has directly and indirectly touched many RVers.
“He made a real difference in our lives. We will miss his warm smile, good counsel and his unfailing friendship.”
GLA committee member, 2004 to present
“I found Max to be outstanding both personally and as an FMCA contributor and leader. His work background plus his experience as an FMCA national vice president and committee member and chairperson enabled him to make a significant contribution to FMCA. He was proactive, hardworking and had vision that guided him to do his very best for our Association. He was a true gentleman, and I was privileged to work with him. He set an example for all of us to follow.”
GLA committee member 2005 to 2007
Highlights of Max Durbin’s tenure as chairman of the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee
- RV parking in many different cities
- Establishing a volunteer subcommittee to assist FMCA members
- Draft of model lemon Law
- Updating FMCA’s Parking Rights Manual & Guide
- RV parking rights audiovisual presentation to councils and planning commissions
- Fuel increase letters to Congress, stating motorhomers’ concerns
- Tennessee voting rights for full-timers
- Ohio State parks fees withdrawn
- Motorhome Regulations chart published in FMC magazine since 2001
- Legislative Updates column in FMC magazine
- RV Friendly signage program — worked with Frank Brodersen
- Dealer franchise laws — efforts to ease restrictions in many different states
- Maryland modifies requirements for Class B driver’s license
- New Hampshire vehicle registration concerning residents who don’t have a stationary address there
- Over-length permits in Ontario, Canada
- Educating members about LLCs and International Fuel Tax Agreement license (IFTA)
- Alabama — reducing the ad valorem tax on RVs
- California over-length issue
- Illinois diesel anti-pollution restrictions and costs
- Seminars and roundtables at FMCA conventions and area rallies