Northern Region Boating Educators of the Year


Rich and Donna Bendler 


Rich and Donna Bendler of Roxbury, Connecticut, work as a dedicated team assisting the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection educating boaters in the classroom and various public outreach venues. The Bendlers have volunteered their time for more than 15 years. During this time, they have educated nearly 2,600 boaters in 68 boating certification classes.

In addition to the time spent in the classroom, Rich and Donna enthusiastically donate their time at DEEP public outreach events. It does not matter if DEEP has a display at a boat show, hunting and fishing show or a county fair, the Bendlers can always be relied upon to support the DEEP boating education mission. Together Rich and Donna have provided over 540 man-hours of friendly knowledgeable service to the DEEP.

Pat Lothspeich
North Dakota


During the 26 years he served as a game warden in the Badlands of North Dakota, Pat Lothspeich learned firsthand that if education is provided for boat and water safety, then less enforcement is needed. Pat spent a great deal of time patrolling the waters of North Dakota, talking to anglers and recreationalists during the spring, summer and fall months. He also dedicated time each year to teach boat safety classes in all areas of his district.

Since retiring in 2011, Lothspeich has become an Outreach Biologist/Information Specialist. He now dedicates his time to teaching boat safety classes and promoting boat safety, navigation rules, and safety around and in the water. Pat spends part of every day in outreach events promoting boating safety and water safety. He also has a weekly radio show where he has a chance to connect with thousands of listeners. In addition, he teaches classes every year at the outdoor recreation and boat shows in several areas of the state and spends time promoting boat safety to several local businesses on their quarterly safety day. Lothspeich has visited power plants, coal mines and anywhere there is a large group of adults that spend time on the water fishing and recreating.

Watercraft Officer Dawn Potter


In her many years as an officer, Officer Dawn Potter, in spite of many challenges, continues to work incredibly hard and approaches all of her responsibilities and commitments in a professional and high-energy manner. She is devoted to her responsibilities as an officer and an education specialist, providing professional and courteous service to outside constituents and other Ohio Department of Natural Resources offices. Without fail, she continually gives 110% to her duties in education classes, events and patrol duties.

Dawn demonstrates a strong commitment to teamwork inside and outside of the division. She works in an upbeat, energetic and respectful manner with diverse constituents such as Cabela’s, paddling sport groups and other divisions. She is always willing to put aside her own priorities to aid co-workers with programs and outreach efforts. Often times, she will go out of her way to do special things for co-workers and boaters, lifting the spirits of those around her. Her positive “can do” attitude is encouraging department-wide.

Officer Potter frequently takes on special projects and events above and beyond her normal job duties. On short notice, she recently coordinated a highly successful day for Ohio’s legislative liaisons, bringing together officers from around the state to educate the participants on the division’s mission and goals. She organized and planned the first annual Alum Creek Paddle Palooza event. This included extensive community outreach, marketing and department-level coordination, all while keeping her normal patrol hours. Within the office, Dawn engages her co-officers and other staff by including them in programs and the daily office flow. She leads by example by completing each task she is assigned in a positive and professional manner, without complaint, taking pride in the job she does.

In late December 2014, Officer Potter was promoted to outdoor recreation coordinator. She coordinated the Division’s first ‘Ohio Boating Summit’ held May 4, 2015, and the event was a huge success.

James “Jim” Delesandro


James “Jim” Delesandro began working with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission in 1998 as a volunteer fishing skills instructor. In 2004, he was certified as a basic boating instructor and began teaching Basic Boating Courses as a PFBC volunteer.
After retiring from his career as customer service manager with GTE, Delesandro was hired by PFBC as an environmental interpretive technician in 2008. His duties include delivering boating safety and angler education programs in Pennsylvania’s Southwest Region. The region covers 10 counties, including Allegheny County, which has more boats registered than any other county in Pennsylvania. It also includes the Pittsburgh Port District, the second busiest inland port in the nation.

Since 2004, Delesandro has taught 122 boating education courses to more than 2,300 adults and youth. In addition to the Basic Boating Course, Jim teaches PFBC’s eight-hour Boating and Water Safety Awareness Course, which focuses on educating youth about water safety and includes both classroom and in-water sessions.

Jim has a great passion for educating others about boating safety. Class participants often remark at his enthusiasm and ability to make an eight-hour classroom course both interesting and engaging. The knowledge and stories Jim shares with his students are captivating, yet extremely effective, in relaying crucial information – information that may someday save a life.
One of Jim’s greatest qualities as an educator is that he continually seeks to gain knowledge to better himself as an instructor. He often remarks that he gains at least one new piece of information from each class he teaches. The “new piece of information” gained may result from a question a student asks, which Jim investigates further in order to produce an answer, knowledge presented by a fellow instructor, or information a student passes along to the rest of the group.

Delesandro maintains relationships with the commonwealth’s waterways conservation officers and often works alongside them during classes and other programs. As a member of the Pittsburgh Safe Boating Council, he regularly attends Council meetings on his personal time to stay informed of any changes in the area’s waterways and to interact with other boating safety stakeholders in the Pittsburgh region.

Delesandro has been, and will continue to be, a great asset not only to the PFBC but to the southwest region of Pennsylvania, its waters, and those who use them. Jim’s passion for water safety and his desire to share the knowledge he possesses with others is immeasurable.

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