Forest River General Manager Don Gunden, the man who launched over a million camping trips in a career spanning a half-century, is finally saying goodbye.
Gunden announced his retirement Friday, effective Feb. 5, from the industry he has worked for since 1974 when he began as a Starcraft RV sales representative.
Industry peers estimate Gunden’s brands built over 1 million RVs in his career, potentially equipping around 4 million people with the means to experience camping and the outdoors.
A year later, Gunden became the founding business manager at Rockwood RV. He successfully launched the brand and has remained atop the company since. Other successful brand launches included Wildwood in 1995, Puma in 2003 and Columbus in 2012.
Forest River President Pete Liegl said he appreciated Gunden’s numerous company contributions.
“It is with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to Don, who has been an integral part of Forest River since its start,” Liegl said. “Gunny leaves not only a successful career but also a lasting impact on our company and the entire RV industry. We are grateful for his years of service and wish him a well-deserved retirement.”
Under Gunden’s leadership and entrepreneurial spirit, Forest River’s Millersburg manufacturing campus became among the industry’s highest-quality production facilities.
Gunden said, tongue in cheek, “I am completing my plan of retiring at 55, only 18 years late.”
He credited each brand’s success to two main elements: The right people and finding a void or demand that needed to be met. He was inducted into the RV/Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame in 2022 and spent the latter part of his career working on RVIA’s Political Action Committee, helping raise funds and support federal legislators who backed the RV industry.
Friends and colleagues describe Gunden as a leader, advocate, networker and visionary.
“It has been a lot of fun to watch Forest River grow into the company it has become,” Gunden said, “and I am honored to have been a part of it. I am confident that the talented team in place will take things to the next level, and while I will miss everyone, I will also cherish the relationships that have come into my life over the years.”
Forest River said the company is “immensely grateful” for Gunden’s work and wishes him all the best in his retirement.
In Gunden’s absence, Forest River divisions will be driven by key managers. Karl Miller will oversee the Rockwood, Flagstaff and Columbus brands. Todd Martin will head up the Puma brand and Ben Meloche will lead the Palomino brand.