MDCE 2015: N.J. trade group director receives Darlene Briggs Award

ORLANDO, Fla. — Melissa Danko accepted the 2015 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year award at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo today.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Melissa Danko, longtime executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, accepted the 2015 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year award at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo today.

“I would like to start by saying how incredibly honored I am to be chosen for this award and be among such an amazing group of women, like Margaret [Podlich] and others who have worked so hard to advance this industry,” Danko, 42, told the crowd at the MDCE awards breakfast at the Orange County Convention Center.

Podlich, the president of BoatUS and last year’s recipient, presented the award.

Danko said during her acceptance speech that past leaders have “dedicated their lives to making this industry better, especially the person this award was created for — Darlene Briggs and all she represents.”

Podlich said Danko possesses “endless energy” in her mission to support the 315 association members and 171 marinas.

“One of her nominators said, ‘Simply stated, what Melissa does best is represent the complete interests of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey — her voice heard from the boardrooms to the docks at marinas throughout New Jersey and into the halls of the state legislature.”

Podlich singled out Danko for her leadership after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “In a new and confusing landscape, Melissa set out to contact every one of her association members to ask them how they were doing and what they needed,” said Podlich. “She reached out [for help] to every agency — all the acronyms known to man — to figure out how to best represent her members.”

Danko, a Grady-White boat owner whose husband works for New Jersey Sea Grant, told Trade Only Today after her speech that the toughest challenge during the aftermath of Sandy was “getting [my members] the help that they needed through government channels in such a confusing time. But we are seeing more boaters getting back on the water, and I’m looking forward to seeing more growth in our industry.”

“As we distance ourselves more and more [from the storm], boaters are getting back on the water. It’s coming back to a point where we can work on growing the industry,” she said.

This is Danko’s 15th year as the association’s executive director. She took the job with no prior experience in the marine trades.

Since 2009 she has managed 12 boat shows. She has worked on the public access and state tax cap issues. She is involved in a host of environmental organizations, as well.

Trade Only Today will have a report on other award winners, including the Best of Show and Best Ideas awards and technical training scholarships, in Thursday’s e-newsletter.

The recipient of the Briggs award demonstrates leadership and commitment to the boating business. Recipients also must show a willingness to volunteer time and effort in their communities and social organizations.

Established in 1987, the award is named after Darlene Briggs of Wayzata Marine in Wayzata, Minn., who exemplified these qualities. She served as the first retail marine saleswoman in Minnesota and the first female member of her state marine trades association.

Past recipients include Debbie Meigs, of Cobalt Boats; Jewell “Julie” Crowe, of Crowe Marine; Barbara Woodard, of Woodard Marine; Nancy Smith, of Colorado Boat Center; Ann Baldree, of Marine Products Corp.; Marcia Kull, of Volvo Penta; Joan Maxwell, of Regulator Marine Inc.; Kris Carroll, of Grady-White Boats; Lynn Fiorenzano, of Silver Spring Marine; and Maureen Dickson, of Cap Sante Marine.