By Max Durbin, F76454
National Vice President, International Area
It is said that opportunity knocks only once. In 1998 I was given the opportunity to serve on the Legislative Advisory Committee, and accepted the appointment with the hope that the work I would be involved in would benefit my FMCA fellow members. I was pleased and surprised when a year later I was appointed to chair the committee, particularly so because it gave me a greater opportunity to be of service.
Now, four years later, I still have the opportunity to chair the restructured committee, which is now called the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee. The committee has taken on many new tasks since its inception. Some of the work is a result of the normal evolution of society, but the freethinking, conscientious, and dedicated committee members also have added to their own list of duties.
The March issue of FMC often includes an “FMCA Insights” column that brings members up-to-date on the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee’s activities; so, instead of concentrating on that, I will address another avenue of service that involves my fellow FMCA members and me.
Because of my committee activities, I was able to sit in when the Executive Committee (now known as the Executive Board) met with the many committees of the association at the Cincinnati headquarters of FMCA. Quite naturally I became very interested in the policy-making aspects of our organization. In the winter of 2001, I learned that Ginger Painter, who was then serving as national vice president from the International Area, had exhausted her term limits and was in her final year of office. After it was determined that the area’s senior vice president had no aspirations to run for the position, I saw it as an opportunity to get on the Executive Board. It was a contested election, but a majority of the national directors of the International Area voted to put me into the office. I was re-elected this year and am now well into my second term as national vice president, International Area.
I really underestimated the role of an area vice president. Of course, I knew my job was to interface between the chapters and the Executive Board. I knew I was to represent all the members who belong to chapters in the International Area, and at the same time, with the Executive Board, to shape and guide policy for the entire organization. I vaguely knew that somehow I had to open avenues of communication with the chapters, and I knew my fellow vice presidents were making personal visitations to chapter meetings in their areas of service. Well, at the time of this writing, there are 88 chapters in the International Area. Obviously, it is impossible to get around to all of them.
Previous International Area vice presidents have had to deal with the same problem. Thankfully, many of the chapters in the International Area meet at either, or both, of the two international conventions FMCA holds each year. This gives me an opportunity to drop by and see what their needs are, and bring them up-to-date on the latest FMCA developments. This helps quite a bit, but I have learned it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Immediately after my installation at the FMCA convention in Hutchinson, Kansas, I began attending rallies of International Area chapters that fit into my schedule and routes of travel. At first, these opportunities revealed a mixed reaction from the chapters I visited. On several occasions, some folks appeared to suspect that I was there to spy on them and their activities, to see whether they were doing what FMCA wanted done. Other times, the people were so warm and friendly that to my wife, Joanne, and I, it was a manifestation of what FMCA is all about. A few times, we were told that I was the first FMCA official they had ever seen. On still other occasions, Joanne and I saw firsthand how the presence of FMCA has affected the lives of some of our members.
At each chapter rally I have visited, I fully participated in the rally activities. At every opportunity, I listened carefully to the comments and concerns expressed by the members. I am convinced that what I heard was from their minds and hearts. I can tell you with sincerity that I listen carefully and take back to the Executive Board the knowledge that I gain at these chapter rallies.
Despite the parochial feelings of some of the national directors, I’m absolutely convinced that area vice presidents should be encouraged to visit chapters, and that this should continue into the foreseeable future. While it may seem to take a full-time commitment on the part of the area vice president to make these chapter visitations, it really isn’t. Besides, the involvement, at the very most, is for a period of four years, during which time a great deal can be accomplished.
I also was impressed with the amount of time and effort required to put on a successful area rally. The International Area Rally held this past January in Quartzsite, Arizona, was the first one I was involved in from start to finish. Joanne and I did have the opportunity to be the rally masters at the third annual International Area Rally at San Antonio in April 2002, and it turned out to be an educational experience for us. It is obvious that having a competent rally master spearheading the event is essential to the success of any rally, whether on a chapter or an area level, and it takes an unbelievable team effort on the part of many volunteers. Fortunately, Les and Wilma Jean Alexander, F163804, are very knowledgeable rally masters. They, along with all of the International Area’s trained team captains, will be hosting the next International Area Rally in Claremore, Oklahoma, on April 15, 16, 17, and 18, 2004. The theme of this rally is “An American Legend” and is based on the life of Will Rogers, and attendance there will be a very rewarding experience.
Now, on another subject, I want to take this opportunity to respond to a question that has been posed to me either in my capacity as chairman of the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee, as the International Area vice president, or as a retired police chief.
The question that is troubling some FMCA members has to do with a police officer’s right to search a motorhome. Without going into a lot of detail, I would quote the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.
Throughout the past 200 years the Supreme Court has been asked to interpret the Fourth Amendment’s language and meaning. Essentially, the Supreme Court has found that no search or seizure can be made without probable cause, sworn by oath, presented to a judicial officer or magistrate, and where the person or the items to be seized are named or identified, as well as the place to be searched.
There is an exception, in that a police officer has a right to arrest a citizen for a felony or misdemeanor committed in his or her presence. The officer may engage in a search of a suspected criminal, but the search is limited to the immediate area of the arrest. At this point, I should tell you that an officer who is making an arrest based on probable cause “” that is to say that the offense did not take place in an officer’s presence “” may search the arrested person and the immediate area, but he or she would be well advised to get a warrant to search beyond the immediate point of the arrest.
There is another exception. Customs officers may search and seize contraband whenever and wherever it may be found. Generally speaking, customs officers can and do search motorhomes at border crossings.
Remember, this started out as a question as to an officer’s right to search a motorhome. Just keep in mind that for the officer to legally search the motorhome without a search warrant, the search must be incidental to a valid arrest, and you, as the arrested party, are inside the motorhome. If the arrest occurs outside of the motorhome, the officer must have either your consent to search the motorhome or a search warrant issued by a judicial official with competent jurisdiction. There is always the possibility of an incompetent officer doing something different, but usually when that happens, courts set aside the illegal search. I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice, and I am certain that FMCA should not be giving legal advice, either; but I should mention to you that if an officer ever confronted me, that confrontation would take place outside the motorhome and should that happen, no consent to search would be given.
Now, to put an end to this article, the obvious theme is “opportunity.” It is not just the opportunity to serve a fellow FMCA member, but also an opportunity to create a sense of fulfillment within oneself. After all, this is really why people volunteer to assist their fellow men.