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Boating Safety Advocates Program

This new program is the result of two successful pilot programs and is modeled after other partner ambassador programs in Oregon. Five new seasonal positions were approved by the Oregon Legislature during the 2023 session as part of a policy option package in the agency's budget

The advocates will be active during peak boating use and are a resource to boaters, especially beginners who may not be aware of pertinent safety equipment or potential risks. 

The BSA positions are not regulatory but collect informal field data related to boating activities for safety and compliance. Advocates are approachable and boaters are encouraged to share their passions and perspectives. 

Jeff HolterBSA Jeff Holter

My name is Jeff and I'm based out of Silverton.   

I grew up in Corvallis and as a kid, I was active in the Boy Scouts. Many of our campouts were at lakes or rivers, so I experienced Oregon's waterways early on, using canoes and rowboats. I learned how to be a friend to nature and to "leave no trace." Fishing, horseback riding, and hiking were some of my favorite activities. 

After graduating from Corvallis High School, I joined the US Air Force where I was trained as a Firefighter. I spent four years on active duty with the military, then continued my firefighting career as a civilian. I retired in late 2022, with thirty-five years as a Firefighter. I was a member of the Water Rescue Team for my last twenty-four years of on-duty service. I operated the Port of Portland's Rescue Boat on the Columbia, Willamette, and Sandy Rivers, responding to all types of water-related emergencies. 

As a BSA, it's great to be on the prevention side of the boating community, rather than the reactive side. I get to meet people and learn about their experiences, why they like boating and share ways they can operate on the water more safely. Through my interactions with boaters, I've learned that most people are very receptive to education and information on the types of boating activities they love. It's very rewarding being a friendly role model for boating safety in Oregon. 

Emily BoyceBSA Emily Boyce

My name is Emily and I am based out of Keizer. I obtained my Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice at Western Oregon University. Throughout my career, I have had a variety of positions that have allowed me to understand and communicate with the public, no matter their background or personality in a way that is welcomed. Working with the public has allowed me to educate others on policies and procedures they may not know. Educating the public about safety has been essential to my career.

I grew up taking swim lessons as a kid, but it wasn't until I was around 11 that I really started to love the water. Once I wasn't afraid of the water, the floodgates opened. I joined the swim team at my local gym and eventually in high school while also floating the Umpqua River when the summers came around.

I came across the Boating Safety Advocate position when I was a employed as temporary employee with the State Marine Board in the Title and Registration Section. I wanted to learn a different side of the agency, so when the position opened, I jumped at the chance. I'm looking forward to engaging with our boaters in a two-way conversation, learning from them, and sharing what I can about the importance of boating and water safety. 

Jessica Abney

Hello! My name is Jessica and I'm based out of Monmouth, Oregon.

I was born and raised in the coastal community of Newport. The ocean, bays, and public beaches have been my playground for almost thirty years. As a local, I have been around large open-sea fishing vessels most of my life. Growing up I spent many hours trout fishing in our local reservoirs and crabbing from the piers and small recreational vessels. Currently, I love spending my free time trout fishing from February through August, crabbing and clamming year-round, and enjoyed my first season of steelhead fishing in 2023.

Throughout my previous career as a retail manager, I took courses in business management, adding to my one year of general college studies completed. I plan to attend Chemeketa in the fall to finish my Procurement Certificate and American Sign Language courses.

As a BSA, I hope to bring local experience and knowledge to advocate boating safety to my fellow Oregonians and visitors of our state. I want to build positive community relationships, starting with the younger generations to actively promote and engage children in safety around water and boats. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a beautiful state and in a small community that instilled in me at a young age the importance of safety on and near the water. I hope my enthusiasm for safety can show folks that being safe doesn't get in the way of having fun! I look forward to seeing y'all out in the community!

Kim McKayKim McKay (in riding gear wearing a life jacket)

Hi, my name is Kim and I grew up in St. Paul. I currently live with my two children in Keizer. I grew up in a farming community, but at a very young age was able to go boating, and knew it would become a lifelong passion of mine. 

Jet skiing became my favorite hobby and not long after I started, I was racing jet skis. I have raced jet skis for the last 24 years and in 2017, placed 4th in the IJSBA World Finals. I mostly coach/mentor kids in the community now, and I am proud to have a son, Ty McKay, who placed 6th in the IJSBA World Finals, also in 2017.  

Competition exposure led me to work and volunteer positions for promoters across the country, regionally, nationally, and most recently, at the International Cup. I have served as flagger, starter, and scoring, and served on management committees for IJSBA, Pro Watercross, and regional promoters. I have also been a contributing journalist periodically over the last couple of years for ProRider Watercraft Magazine. 

Promotional ad with BSA Kim McKay With all of my time on the water, I've seen a lot of incidents, some of them fatal. This is why I became passionate about water safety and started a volunteer water safety program teaching in local schools. This program was featured on FOX News 12 in 2019. I feel it all starts with educating kids. “If we can start teaching them young, they grow up learning correctly what to do, and hopefully they will go on share the  safety message."  In 2022, I got certified in ocean safety water rescue with a company partnered with the US Coast Guard. No matter how much experience we have, I feel our training never ends. This training was intense! I've built skills that I can use for a lifetime.

I am truly honored to work as a boating safety advocate. I am passionate about all kinds of watersports, and water safety. I look forward to interacting with people out on the water this year.  If you see me out there, come by and say "hello!"

Dustin Penney

Hi, my name is Dustin and I'm based out of Banks. 

I grew up fishing, clamming, and crabbing on the Oregon coast. That's where I developed a passion for being on the water. Whether it's salmon fishing in the ocean, tubing in the lakes, or catching catfish in the Snake River, I love every bit of it. The community where I'm from was an amazing place to grow up. We learned the importance of giving back and volunteering early on. Through the local schools, I learned about marine biology, got to experience diving and kayaking, and was able to spend some time on the water with the US Coast Guard.

I went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Portland State University in Business Management and Human Resources. There I picked up skills such as legal compliance, marketing, public relations, and public speaking. I continued my learning experience through raising kids, volunteering at their schools, and working in the private sector.

As a BSA, I hope to make an impact in the boating community through positive interactions, being present, and providing education and resources. I feel that boating incidents can be averted or have their effects mitigated through building a culture where safe boating practices are the norm. The program's effects can be seen, and I enjoy all the positive responses people have given. If you see me on the water, say "hi." It's a great place to be and I hope to see you there!

Justin Lauer, Boating Safety Advocate Program Coordinator

My earliest boating experience was as a baby, latched to the pushpit of a sailboat on the Columbia River so that I wouldn't slide back and forth when the boat heeled. Before I could even form full memories, the gentle lull of the waves and the feeling of the spray reaching out to tickle my nose and cool my tiny face must have made an impression because I ended up with a lifelong love of boats and the water.

I was fortunate to grow up in Oregon, and I had the opportunity to participate in many kinds of boating. With my family I enjoyed fishing in the ocean off the mouth of the Columbia River, rafting trips on the Deschutes River, and many other experiences. I joined Scouting and with my troop continued to pursue adventures on the water. We would share whitewater rafting trips on the Deschutes, canoe trips to Sauvie Island, and several self-guided multi-day sea kayaking expeditions in the San Juan Islands.

In college I attended a river guide training school and became a whitewater rafting guide. I continued to work as a guide for the next 15 years on rivers throughout Oregon. Among others, I spent time working on the Rogue, Deschutes, Mckenzie, Santiam, Umpqua, Klamath, and Owyhee rivers. I worked on both single and multi-day trips, but my specialty was as a multi-day self-supported trip planner and leader. I enjoyed the challenge and responsibility that came with safely guiding and caring for a group of people, while also having a great time. In addition to finding this wonderful opportunity, I graduated with honors from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with strong focuses in both neuroscience and industrial/organizational psychology.

Sharing knowledge and helping others to be safe on the water is part of who I am. I feel lucky that I can do this as a part of my job, and I will continue to innovate and develop the Boating Safety Advocate Program to be an effective tool to help boaters have a great time on the water and prevent tragedies.