Get to Know Your AOAP Board Members

The Association of Aquatic Professionals boasts a dynamic group of leaders working hard throughout the year to support the Association, to provide information and benefits to our members, and to bring the biggest and best annual conference and exposition to the industry!  AOAP’s Board of Directors includes several experts with years of professional aquatic management experience.  Each month, we will feature a different AOAP Board Member with the goal of sharing information about their aquatic positions and offering advice to those members who may be new to the field.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our eigth feature highlights Christopher Whipple

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization:

EXOS in St. Paul, MN

Current Position/Title:

Aquatics Director

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

I made a beach rescue in 8th grade, before I was ever certified, and I think that had me hooked for life.  Even as I planned to go different directions, my life has constantly brought me back to the water.  Most of the last 10 years has been in University Recreation, and I recently had the opportunity of opening a new aquatics center at a local community center.

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

Here are my top three passions:

Being able to watch employees grow, and see the impact that the “first job” can make on shaping the future. Some of the smallest interactions can make a big difference in someone else’s future. The cycle continues as the next generation of aquatic staff are admiring their instructor and lifeguards right now.

Watching people enjoy a lifelong recreational activity, from infant and beyond, everyone can find something they can do in or around the water, and there are not many activities that say that.

Working towards a world with zero drowning, from trying to have better equipped lifeguards to making swim lessons accessible for everyone, there is a true difference that can be made.

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

Charter member!!!

As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

I am always amazed at how energized I get when working with members of AOAP and I know that feeling is contagious. I like the feel of a network so I can be available to help other people be successful in their aquatic path, but to know that I am learning and growing so much along the way.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

I am going to recycle advice that was given to me early in my career. “What can you do to stand out from the crowd?” This hits on all of the items that I would want to share with anyone in their career. Are you reading to keep pace on current trends? Next steps are to write and present. You always have something you are doing that someone can learn from, so network away and learn from others. Find your people, and then keep finding people. Networking is how I have found my jobs, grown in the field and helped me to achieve my goals. Finally get active beyond your everyday. Join an AOAP committee, reach out in your state or region, or help a colleague across the street. Anything you can do to set you apart will make you better.

Our seventh feature highlights Christian Peck

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization

City of Peoria, Arizona

Current Position/Title

Aquatics Recreation Coordinator

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

I have worked in the aquatic field for 25 years.  As a child, I was always in the water swimming and on a swim team; it was just natural that the next step was lifeguarding.  What started out as a great summer job and something to do in college, quickly turned into a lifelong passion and career.  I also did several aquatics internships that took me to different states and countries, including Iceland.

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

I would say education and passing water safety information to others is what I am most passionate about.  Being in aquatics, you often hear the dangerous and heartbreaking stories of the aquatics world. However, catching and educating that one family on the importance of putting their child in a lifejacket or swim lessons makes those long days out in the sun worth it.

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

Since 2014As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

One of my favorite parts of being involved with AOAP is all of the connections I have made and all of the great information I have learned.  I love seeing how passionate and energized others are at the annual conference and hope I can help ignite some energy and passion in this profession for others as well.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

Get involved, stay involved, and don’t be afraid to ask to be involved.  I am here today because I had managers/supervisors that believed in me and took the time to include me.  I took a summer job that I loved and made it into a career.  Don’t be afraid to take chances, you never know what opportunities lay around the corner.

Our Sixth Feature highlights Pete DeQuincy!

BOD Member’s Employer/ Organization

East Bay Regional Park District

Current Position/Title

Aquatics Manager

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

I started as a seasonal lifeguard in 1985, and have been in and out of the pool, lake, and ocean ever since.

What are you most passionate about with regards to the Aquatics Industry?

Here are a few things that currently drive my passion and curiosity:

  • Developing drowning prevention strategies that can be used by the industry, on the deck, at the facility, and in the community
  • Creating a mentoring program for young aquatic professionals locally, statewide and nationally
  • Building a practical/applicable in-service training model and curriculum derived from deliberate practice and overlearning
  • Developing a water competency program that complements traditional swim lessons or replaces traditional swim lessons

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

Since 2015.

As a current board member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

Giving back to the Aquatic industry is a priority and a responsibility. This industry has provided for me, and it is only appropriated to give back.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would tell them? And why?

Working in this industry truly makes a difference in people’s lives, both the employee and the patron. Aquatics is righteous.

Our Fifth Feature highlights Lori Thompson!

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization

  • City of La Mirada

Current Position/Title

  • Former Director of Community Services (retired)

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

  • I have worked in the field for 40+ years.  One day when I was 15 years old, I showed up for swim practice and the pool manager asked me if I wanted a job. After practice my parents were surprised to hear I had a job and I have been hooked ever since. While working my first job as a locker room attendant I can remember thinking that the lifeguards were really cool and someday I wanted to be like them.   It was not long after graduating high school that I can remember thinking that someday I would have to get a “real job” and was not sure what that looked like. While trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career I realized that working in aquatics was an exceptional career. I have been very fortunate to have worked for some really great organizations and had the opportunity to do a wide variety of things. This past July after working for over 40 years municipal aquatics and community services, I retired to be able to spend time with family and continue to do what I love in the field of aquatics.

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

  • I truly enjoy the teaching and training aspect and being able to work with all the great aquatic professionals to help make facilities safe and fun. I am working with Starguard and Starfish Aquatics to partner with organizations to help increase safety and efficiency. I am also able to devote more time to drowning prevention and consulting.

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

  • I have been a member of AOAP since 2011.

As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

  • Being a member of AOAP since it started has really been helpful in being able to network with many of the top professionals in aquatics and continue to learn new and exciting information. One of the highlights of being in this field is all the great people you get to meet, the amazing teamwork and sharing of information that happens throughout the industry. As a board member, I enjoy getting the opportunity to work with some fantastic people who care about the profession.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

  • When I think of all the great young adults, I have had the opportunity to work with over the years, I have truly been blessed. I have also had the blessing of working with the children of those I hired, which does not feel like that many years ago. If I could tell young professionals in aquatics one thing it would be, that while you have chosen a very challenging profession it is also a very rewarding one. Most often aquatics is a career that chooses you rather than you choosing it.  We all have times in our career that we question our choice.  Hang in there during the challenging times and there will be some.  I can tell you from experience, it is totally worth it.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Our fourth feature highlights Jeff Fryer!

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization

  • River Road Park and Recreation District, Eugene, OR

Current Position/Title

  • Aquatic Director

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

  • Too long . . . In September 1975, I started lifeguarding my local pool in what was then the Panama Canal Zone;  and have been at it ever since.

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

  • I truly believe – in one way or another – we, as aquatic professionals, have a unique opportunity to Influence, effect and impact young adults. Often, we are an individual’s first employer;  and, as a result, we often wear many hats – hats that place us in a position to not only teach and prepare our staffs for the “job at hand”, but for future endeavors as well.

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

  • I became a member of the A.O.A.P. in 2011 shortly before the first A.O.A.P. Conference and Exposition in 2012.

As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

  • Serving on the A.O.A.P. Board of Directors is a labor of love and one way in which I can reciprocate to an industry that has provided me so much throughout the years.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

  • Get involved! Network!  Interact!  In some ways, you do not have to reinvent the wheel . . .    Many of us have “been there, done that”.  In other ways, as our industry progresses, it is up to you to “build a new mousetrap”.  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
    Helen Keller

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our third feature highlights Becky Hulett!

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization

  • City of Phoenix, Parks and Recreation

Current Position/Title

  • Aquatics Supervisor

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

  • 26 years

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

  • My passion when it comes to aquatics is being able to have an impact on saving lives. I continue to work to provide the best possible training for lifeguards and provide opportunities to teach kids to swim in our community to reduce the drowning rates.

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

  • Since it started. I believe 2011 (8 years)

As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

  • I love being able to serve on the conference committee. I have been a part of this committee prior to being elected to the BOD. The work this committee completes is rewarding as you can see the outcomes of your efforts at the conference each year. I love the comradery amongst the BOD team and the relationships that I have built through this opportunity.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

  • My advice to a young aquatic professional would be to take every opportunity to expose yourself to new thoughts and theories through education, conferences and networking. Question everything and ensure what you are doing what makes sense. Don’t continue to do things because we have always done it this way. Push the envelope and don’t settle for the status quo. This is how you better the industry.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our second feature highlights Mark Foote!

BOD Member’s Employer/Organization:

  • City of Chandler, Chandler, Arizona

Current Position/Title:

  • Aquatics Superintendent

How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

  • FOREVER (picture the police officer in the Sandlot and say it real slow)…Not really….18 years.

What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

  • My “why” is the staff development side of the operations.  When I started lifeguarding and coaching I was similar to many of the millennial staff we have coming through our programs today.  However, I had a few great leaders who saw potential in me and really helped shape who I am today.  We have the power to influence staff coming through our programs and to help shape their future work and leadership abilities….I don’t think we recognize that enough!  Our job is as much about running good quality programs as it is helping these staff grow into good competent citizens and leaders……”a rising tide raises all ships”

How long have you been a member of AOAP?

  • 6 years

As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

  • I’m really selfish….I love the energy and excitement for our profession that I am able to absorb by being around other aquatics professionals.  One of the greatest joys of serving our members is watching people leave our annual conference with a different attitude and energy.  They have attended sessions and learned from some of the best speakers and professionals from around the country and world.   Knowing they are going back to implement ideas in their facilities and agencies to make our industry better is exciting and gives me energy to keep pushing as well.

If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

  • Get actively involved!  I am where I am today because someone pushed me to be an ACTIVE part of an association.  Membership is great and will help without a doubt, but the best way to learn, grow, develop and succeed is to get active, surround yourself and work with other motivated and positive aquatics professionals…….I may be biased, but the AOAP is a really great group of motivated, positive aquatics professionals and we need your enthusiasm, ideas and talents.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our first feature will highlight Debbi “Deb” Davidson!

  • BOD Member’s Employer/Organization

Arkansas City Recreation Commission, Arkansas City, Kansas

  • Current Position/Title

Aquatic/Special Programs Director

  • How long have you worked in the aquatics field?

I started in the field of Aquatics at the age of 12 as a lifeguard for 25 cents an hour.

Professionally, I started with the Arkansas City Recreation Commission 20 years ago this year.

  • What are you most passionate about with regard to the Aquatics Industry?

Drowning Prevention will always be my most passionate goal.  I think this is why I feel so honored to be part of AOAP with such like-minded individuals who are dedicated to saving one life at a time.  The water is such a beautiful environment to be in and has such benefits both physically and mentally for all people, and it can be a safe place if people are trained with swimming lessons and supervision.  It’s that simple!

  • How long have you been a member of AOAP?

I have been a member of AOAP since the beginning.  I am a founding member.

  • As a current BOD member, what do you love most about serving the members of AOAP?

The opportunity to serve the membership has been one of my biggest blessings.  The chance to have a leadership role with an organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and providing support to each other has been life-changing for me.  The people who have mentored me for many years have made my career more successful than I could have ever imagined.  It has provided me the tools to serve my community in many ways I would not have been able to without the professional members this organization brings together.

  • If you could provide advice to a young professional in the field, what would you tell them?  And why?

RUN!!!  Just kidding.  You will never know how many lives your career will save and change.  Every action by your team members at your pools are potential “rescues”.  Public Service will be one of the most frustrating and rewarding careers you will ever have all in one moment.  If you stay in the field long enough you will become “wired” differently than everyone else in one of the best ways ever.  You will meet some of the most incredible team members one could ever wish to be associated with.  And before too long you will realize you are changing lives each and every day.  The field of Aquatics is a blessing you will swear is a curse some days, but in the end it puts you in a group of people who will support you, cry with you, celebrate with you, pray for you and love you every moment of every day like no other people on earth.  I wouldn’t change a thing!!  Thank you AOAP for all that you bring to my life!!