Yesterday when word reached the National Marine Trades Council that one of its own, Melissa Danko, had been named the 2015 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year, the celebration began.
The NMTC’s annual meeting was taking place in an adjacent hotel to this year’s record-breaking Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando. It was at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas’ state-of-the-industry breakfast that it was revealed Danko was joining the exclusive list of incredible women in the marine industry, the likes of Joan Maxwell (Regulator), Kris Carroll (Grady-White), Margaret Podlich (BoatUS) and eight other former recipients. (See yesterday’s full report in Trade Only Today.)
Danko is executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey and is also vice chair of the NMTC, an organization of state and regional marine trade association leaders. Many MTAs around the country — among them, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York — are being led by accomplished women. But Danko’s tenure and achievements for her association are unparalleled.
On a personal note, I first met Melissa over a dozen years ago. I remember being immediately impressed with her desire to learn of any ideas that could help her more than 300 members be more successful. And I can honestly say that in the years since, her single-minded focus on service has never changed. Indeed with her it’s not a job, it’s a passion.
In addition to managing the MTANJ’s boat shows, she is an untiring advocate for positive legislation, regulation and promotion that can make boating and the boat business better in New Jersey. For example, she’s pursuing issues like getting funding reinstated for the “I Boat New Jersey” program, gaining favorable use fee applications and pursuing a sales tax cap, among other issues, to make her members competitive with states like Maryland, the Carolinas, Florida and more.
She is perhaps most widely recognized for her leadership after Hurricane Sandy stormed up the East Coast and devastated many of her member dealerships and marinas. She often shared with me the efforts she was making to find help. She’d go anywhere to seek out anyone who could possibly help her members. And yes, you could say she was possessed with finding assistance to rebuild marinas, dredge closed channels and convince boaters to get back on the water.
But she is truly the complete association executive. She leads with year-round initiatives that include educational events, networking opportunities and promotional activities for her members.
So it’s more than fitting that she was nominated and chosen for the Woman of the Year Award, which is the industry’s highest honor given to recognize the leadership of women in our industry. The MTANJ has got to be proud of her — I know I am!