Southern Region Boating Educators of the Year


Brian Rehwinkel

Brian Rehwinkel was chosen as Florida’s Boating Educator of the Year because of his consistent and innovative contributions in making boaters safer through his boating educational efforts as the boating safety education and outreach coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Brian has been working for FWC in the boating safety, outreach, and education arena for 10 years. Prior to his tenure with FWC, he worked with Visit Florida and was responsible for welcoming visitors and prospective citizens to Florida. His work for FWC has continued his passion for working with people and providing them with a positive experience.

Brian says his greatest achievement is when he encounters someone that has developed a voluntary behavior change, such as a life jacket habit, and attributes that change to an encounter with Brian either over the phone or in person at an outreach event. This has happened several times in his four years of participating at the Tampa Outdoor Expo. Now people stop by to tell Brian they have taken a course or bought life jackets, and wear them, based on speaking with Brian or seeing his inflatable PFD presentation.

Florida’s boating education is required for persons born on or after January 1, 1988 and for those who have been convicted of specific boating violations. Brian often needs to help someone understand whether they need to take a course or not. He takes that opportunity to encourage them to take a course. Many times he is successful to the point that now they want to regardless of the requirement.

Brian works with a number of groups and organizations to improve boating safety by helping coordinate events or outreach. He personally participates in many outreach events throughout the year, but his commitment to boating safety extends beyond Florida’s boundaries. He has been an active member serving on the NASBLA Education Committee for seven years, including serving as the charge leader concerning PFD labeling changes.

Brian Rehwinkel truly epitomizes the professionalism and dedication required to meet the varied demands of educating and encouraging such a diverse population to be safe while boating and enjoying Florida’s outdoor opportunities.

Jeff Wise


Jeff Wise is currently the commander of District 17 in the United States Power Squadrons. This district covers Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Jeff is certified through the US Power Squadrons as an instructor for classroom and on-the-water instruction and has been involved in teaching classes to the public at both Allatoona Lake and Lake Lanier since 2001. He has multiple certifications combined with real-life experiences with in-shore and off-shore boating. He uses these real life experiences to capture the attention of students and to improve his teaching methods in the classroom. The result is a thorough and complete boating safety class experience for the students who carry home a better understanding of boating safety, rules and the reality of the marine environment.

During 2014, Jeff taught, scheduled, or assisted with 11 NASBLA-approved US Power Squadron America’s Boating Course classes, successfully certifying over 60 students. The ABC class is an intensive eight-hour boating course offered free to the public. It focuses on safety, required safety equipment, rules of the road, navigation, trailering, emergency preparedness, and safe boating practices and requires students successfully pass a 50-question exam for documentation and certification.

Jeff worked directly with the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division to include boating statistics, updated boating safety laws, and generate pictures of actual boating safety incidents. This special emphasis on real-life events help boaters relate to their actual experiences on the water. These classes are also attended by DNR Law Enforcement Rangers who add to the program with their experiences while on the water and answer questions regarding laws.

Jeff Wise has shown a long-term commitment to the boating public through his last 13 years of participation with helping to make the public waters safer through teaching boating safety classes. Jeff and his assistants have also added to public safety by allowing DNR Rangers more time on the water and freeing up the rangers for patrols on weekends while he completes boating safety classes. It is this long-term commitment, real life boating experiences, multiple certifications, and a true passion for boating that make him a true boating educator.

Julie Brown


Julie Brown serves as the sole boating safety coordinator for the state of Maryland. She works for the Safety Education Section, a unit of the Maryland Natural Resources Police. This educational unit is responsible for the content review, coordination and delivery of the mandatory boating safety and hunter education classes conducted throughout the state.

Julie’s customer service goes beyond the expectations of colleagues and supervisors as she passionately educates the public in regards to recreational vessels, canoes, kayaks, and especially personal watercraft. She attends numerous events and has tailored the “always wear a life jacket” message to all participants (especially young children) when going on, in or anywhere near the water.

Through her educational outreach efforts to the boating public, Julie has been a constant promoter of water safety, and through her diligent efforts she has no doubt saved some of the most precious natural resources of the state – human lives. More than one parent has sent comments to the office stating that their child will not board or let the parent board a vessel without first putting on a life jacket.

Beginning in 2014 the Safety Education Section began working on the development of the new Maryland-specific water safety mascot, SPLASH the Water Safety Dog. Julie worked tirelessly on the development of the new costume with the vendor whom was awarded the bid to make SPLASH come to life. She traveled hundreds of miles and spent many hours until delivery was finally accepted. SPLASH the Water Safety Dog made his official debut at an Orioles game on May 19, 2015, during National Safe Boating Week.

Julie provides hands-on personal watercraft instruction each season to the members of the Natural Resources Police. Using her expertise with PWC, she works closely with the field and reserve officers to assure that they are intimately familiar with the special concerns and associated operational characteristics of these specialized vessels. She also works with the PWC Industry along with a local vendor to secure two state-of-the-art loaner PWC at no charge to the program. These new vessels are used throughout the state during training, educational programs, and public relations events.

During 2014 Maryland experienced a rise in the rental operation of water jet devices. Julie has reviewed, commented on and submitted recommendations and proposals on the safe use and operation of these units as well as reviewed the rental and livery operations that have begun to offer “rides” for a fee.

Sergeant Robert G. May II


Sergeant Robert G. May II is an outstanding officer, displaying a model work ethic. His training abilities, enforcement contacts, and personal demeanor epitomize the expectations of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Sergeant May has demonstrated his commitment to promoting safety through the extensive and in-depth education that he has provided to his co-workers in regard to proper tactics and procedures when working in the marine environment as well as educating the public about boating safety.

In 2014, Sergeant May was instrumental in the development and presentation of the Troop I Basic Water Training Course, which was given to approximately 60 Troop I members. This course was designed to provide troopers with the basic knowledge of how to recover in the event that they entered the water unexpectedly or if they chose, based on their own situational judgment, to rescue a victim in the water. The training provided a basic understanding of throw bags, personal flotation device fitting, basic swimming techniques, treading water, survival float, ferrying angles, and self-defense from a distressed swimmer.

A Swift Water/Flood Rescue Technician, Sergeant May assisted in training approximately 25 students in the Swift Water Rescue course. This training is designed to teach students the skills necessary to rescue persons in swift water conditions. It covers such topics as how to read the river, river hydraulics, rescue knots, self-rescue techniques, strainer drills, boat operation techniques, boat rescue techniques, throw bag techniques, team rescue drills, hi-line/z-line rescue techniques, rope gun fundamentals, ring buoy rescue techniques, and low head dam rescue techniques.

He also assisted in training approximately 40 students in Basic Boat Operations and taught several other courses for the four week Marine Operations training course. Sergeant May has also provided swimming and boat operation training to approximately 20 Special Weapons and Tactics team members, been a Field Training Officer, a Tactical Water Survival Trainer, an instructor in Boat Stop and Approach, and the Seated Battery of Standard Field Sobriety Test.

Sergeant May is an outstanding member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He puts the mission and core values of the Patrol first and is professional and diligent in the performance of his duties. Sergeant May is dedicated to the training of others in marine enforcement, boat operation, swift water rescue and swimming safety. This is very evident in the positive remarks he receives from his students about the way he teaches and conducts himself during training.

Dennetta Dawson
South Carolina


SSGT Dennetta Dawson has served as an officer with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources since 1994. She worked in the field enforcing boating laws until 2004 when she was promoted into the Law Enforcement Education Section. Since then, Dennetta has excelled in teaching young people and adults alike about basic boating safety.

SSGT Dawson is a member of the Boating Safety Action Force, a boating saturation team that travels to high-traffic waterways across the state between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. Whenever Dennetta stops a boat for an inspection, she always uses the opportunity to educate the boaters about boating safety so that they will be safer the next time they are afloat.

During the past year, SSGT Dawson was directly responsible for teaching nine boating classes in her area of responsibility along the lower coastal plain of South Carolina. In addition to teaching boating classes, she participates annually in the “Ladies on the Lake” event, an on-the-water training offered by a local boating group on Lake Murray in the Midlands of South Carolina. This on-the-water training focuses on giving women an opportunity to learn more about basic boating operation and trailering. Dennetta is always a favorite at this event. She provides on the water boating instruction and assists the women with docking and maneuvering.

Earlier this year, Dennetta assisted the YMCA in Beaufort, S.C., in preparing to teach boater education this summer as a part of the Spirit of America program. Young people who attend this summer program received boater education as well as basic on the water instruction using small boats, kayaks, and canoes. Dennetta worked with the agency’s Education Section to provide a Type II life jacket as a reward to each student who participated in the summer program at the YMCA.

SSGT Dennetta Dawson embodies the best of the officers within the Law Enforcement Division. She is a great boating educator who gives of her time to spread the message of boater education to the public of South Carolina.

Officer Chester Slagle


Officer Chester Slagle has been a part-time boating officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for 15 years. He is located in east Tennessee, District 41, in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. This heavily populated area consistently has the highest number of boat registrations in the state. Along with the high number of registrations comes a lot of water, this part of the state contains the Tennessee River plus several reservoirs including Norris Lake, Douglas Lake and the two rivers which form the beginning of the 600+ mile Tennessee River – the Holston and French Broad Rivers.

Until a few years ago, Knoxville – the third largest city in Tennessee – was heavily lacking in opportunities for boating education. Seeing this huge gap, Chester visited the Bass Pro Shop in Sevierville and asked if they would be interested in providing the facility with which to teach boating education. A beneficial partnership was established and boating education participation numbers in the area just keep increasing.

Officer Slagle continually leads other state instructors in the number of students certified; in 2014 he taught 33 classes and certified 582 students. In addition, he assisted in other classes that certified another 196 students. All this is in addition to his regular boating officer duties which included issuing nine citations, seven warnings, and assisting with a narcotics arrest and two other arrests. Chester participated in 15 boating education outreach events and reached over 400 middle school students by providing general boating safety talks.

Officer Chester Slagle, in addition to helping with all boating-related activities within District 41, has done an exceptional job with the TWRA boating education program and has carried the majority of the weight in boating education certification for this entire area in the eastern part of Tennessee.

Greg Reese


Since qualifying as a volunteer instructor in 2000, Greg Reese has made a major contribution to Virginia’s boating safety program. During this time he has instructed approximately 14 Boat Virginia classes each year, providing boating safety education to over 2,200 boaters. He is a uniquely qualified instructor – one who is extremely knowledgeable of all aspects of the NASBLA course and one who is able to keep the students’ interest and enhance their learning. As the course coordinator, Greg schedules and sets up the course, personally attends every course, teaches, and assists other instructors, especially those who are new instructors. He has also been very helpful to the regional coordinator in setting up and conducting numerous certification workshops. He excels at teaching any and all sections of BOAT VIRGINIA. For the Rules of The Road section, he developed a training aid showing night light configurations. This training aid allows students to see possible lights that may be seen at night, and allows the students to respond to the meaning of each configuration.

Greg has been a member of The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 63, since 1987 and has served as a Flotilla Commander and as a Division and Flotilla Staff Officer – Public Education for 15 years. His efforts as Flotilla Public Education Officer resulted in his flotilla being selected as the Most Outstanding Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla and again the Best Flotilla for Public Education. It is a rare occurrence to be honored in two consecutive years!

Auxiliary statistics show that Greg has personally spent 1,602 hours teaching public education courses, of which 800 were state courses. This resulted in 2,607 graduates; 2,248 were in state courses. In 2015 Greg was recognized by the Auxiliary in the Hampton Roads area as their Member of the Year. Greg is a qualified Vessel Examiner, Coxswain, and AUXOP member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He serves on the Hampton Roads Area Maritime Security Committee’s Security & Safety Subcommittee and also the Virginia Boating Alliance Committee, which both bring all recreational boating stakeholders together to address major regional and statewide issues.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *