Boating Officer of the Year

nominating: boating officer of the year

Nominations are open to all commissioned, certified or sworn peace officers authorized by the state to enforce the recreational boating safety laws of that state. Boating law administrators should nominate candidates who have made an outstanding contribution to boating safety through enforcement. A nominee should have performed an outstanding service to the agency or state in any facet of recreational boating safety including but not limited to enforcement, education, search and rescue, outreach, innovation, partnership, BUI enforcement, accident investigation, community service, and heroic action. Posthumous nominations are not eligible.

Three regional finalists will be chosen from among the state nominees and will win a paid trip to the NASBLA Annual Conference where the national boating officer of the year will be announced and recognized during the Awards Ceremony.

Nominations for this award must be submitted by a boating law administrator.

The nomination deadline for the Officer of the Year award was April 30, 2021. Nominations for 2021 are now closed.

View sample application.


National boating officer of the year selected

NASBLA is pleased to announce the regional winners of the Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. This award symbolizes the highest level of achievement among boating law enforcement officers in the U.S.

The selection process for this award began in January with NASBLA soliciting nominations for each state and territory boating law enforcement officer of the year. Next, each regional association of boating law administrators chose one regional award recipient, making that officer eligible for consideration for the national award. The national award recipient is announced during the NASBLA Annual Conference


National Winner 2021

The 2021 National Boating Officer of the Year winner will be announced at the 2021 NASBLA Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Northern Region
Officer Arnaud KpachaviConservation Officer Arnaud Kpachavi
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR)
Conservation Officer Arnaud Kpachavi, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), has been named the 2021 Northern Region Officer of the Year. Officer Kpachavi has been a state conservation officer since January 2016. Ofc. Kpachavi is a hard worker and professional law enforcement officer. He has taken on many roles with increasing responsibility over the past four years. Ofc. Kpachavi has become a vital component of the department’s efforts in boating and water safety. He has quickly become the face of the MN DNR for not only boating and water safety, but also for the DNR recruitment efforts through countless media appearances. Officer Kpachavi actively participates in numerous boating enforcement details across the entire state. He understands the division’s missions in boating and water safety, and exceeds district goals in BWI arrests every year. As a result of his boating enforcement efforts, Ofc. Kpachavi has increased the safety of boaters, swimmers and other recreational users on many of Minnesota’s busiest recreational and fishing lakes.

Officer Kpachavi is respected by his supervisors, partners, members of the community, local law enforcement, and court officials. Very few officers have the same dedication and work ethic as Ofc. Kpachavi when it comes to boating and water safety. Congratulations Conservation Officer Arnaud Kpachavi! Read the full press release

Southern Region

Game Warden Hani Raj Ataya - TPWDTexas Game Warden Hani Raja Ataya
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

Texas Game Warden Hani Raja Ataya, of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), has been named the Southern Region Officer of the Year for 2021. Warden Ataya is stationed in Orange County, Texas, and regularly patrols all of its major waterbodies for recreational water safety enforcement. Contrary to most of his peers who would prefer to patrol by land on most days, Warden Ataya’s favorite part of being a Texas game warden is the time he spends patrolling on the water. He is very experienced and enjoys operating every patrol platform in the district, including the 29’ PV Pauling twin-outboard offshore boat, center console Majek and TranSport bay boats, airboats, and more. Warden Ataya’s patrol efforts for boating safety this year led Region 4, and most of the state, with an impressive 692 boat patrol hours. During those patrols, he issued 129 written warnings and 72 citations explicitly for water safety violations, along with giving countless verbal warnings and advice about being safe on the water.

Warden Ataya’s work ethic, thirst for knowledge, and sheer determination have led him to become an extremely successful and effective Texas game warden. He continues to be a mentor and friend to all of his fellow officers and is well-respected by the recreational boating community. Congratulations Texas Game Warden Hani Raja Ataya! Read the full press release

Western Region

Sgt. Ken Mencl - IDSergeant Ken Mencl
Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office (TFCSO)

Sergeant Ken Mencl, of the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office, has been named the 2021 Western Region Officer of the Year. Sergeant Mencl is the supervisor of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program for the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office in Idaho. Over the last two years, he, along with his fellow SROs, has made significant strides in making the marine program one of the strongest programs in the state. The bulk of the marine work in both 2019 and 2020 fell primarily on the backs of two school resource officers, with some help from other deputies who signed up to work. From 2019 to 2020, the number of boat inspections that these two officers conducted increased by over 130%. Likewise, the number of citations that were issued increased from 2019 to 2020 by more than 85%. Despite the setback we all experienced due to COVID-19, these officers increased the number of educational classes by over 407%. With all of the contacts that occurred, a total of 1,194 warnings were issued.

Sgt. Mencl’s technical skills are second to none, but his ability to deal with the public and promote boating and water safety education, is what makes him stand out from the rest. He is a great leader for his team and consistently brings a positive attitude to the work environment. Congratulations Sergeant Ken Mencl!
Read the full press release

First presented in 2000, the Marvin “Butch” Potts Memorial Award, known as the Boating Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, is presented annually to the boating law enforcement officer who has made outstanding contributions to the field of boating law enforcement. The award program consists of three levels: state, regional and national.

2021 State Boating Officers of the Year

Northern Region

Officer Alexandra Blackwell, Connecticut

Corporal Adam Roark, Delaware

Conservation Officer Joseph Yarkosky, Iowa

Conservation Police Officer Audrey Hoftender, Illinois

Officer Jonathan Watkins, Indiana

Warden Ethan Buuck, Maine

Officer Eamonn Mullaly, Massachusetts


Officer Arnaud Kpachavi, Minnesota

Police Officer Stewart Wilson, New York

Game Warden Andrew Dahlgren, North Dakota

Lieutenant Frances Ethier, Rhode Island

Officer Chris Dekker, South Dakota

Conservation Warden Kyle Johnson, Wisconsin

Southern Region

Wildlife Officer Joe Weston, Arkansas

Officer Britton Corbin, Florida

Game Warden First Class Ryan Locke, Georgia

Officer Benjamin Morris, Kentucky

Sergeant Tim Fox, Louisiana

Officer First Class Andrew Cummins, Maryland

Master Officer Matthew Lee, North Carolina

Officer Josh Landrum, Tennessee

Texas Game Warden Hani Raja Ataya, Texas

Senior Conservation Officer Brandon Harris, Virginia

Officer Randall Kocsis, West Virginia

Western Region


State Trooper Tom Akelkock, Alaska

Sergeant Kyler Cox, Arizona

Sergeant Ken Mencl, Idaho

Game Warden Even Deneke, Kansas

Game Warden John Huberty, Montana

Game Warden Zachary Blackwood, Nevada

(Those in bold text are the regional boating officers of the year.)


Previous Recipients