By Bruce Claflin
If you have boated on the beautiful St.
Croix River, you have probably stopped at
Windmill Marina in Afton, Minn.
The 170-slip, full-service marina is not just
a nice place to launch your boat, or stop
to refuel and refresh; it is a cornerstone of
the local community and holds a reputation
for being the friendliest marina on
the river — all thanks to Joe Riley, certified
Riley is retiring after 42 years at Windmill
Marina, where he started as a gas dock attendant, worked in the boat yard, then as
a boat mechanic, and for the last 34 years
as vice president and general manager. He
also held roles with many marina associations and supported marine industry
“Being a marina manager is more of a lifestyle than a job — the facilities, members and river all demand constant oversight — and it’s something that has turned into a lifelong passion of mine,” Riley said.
BUILDING A MARINA
Since the time Riley took over the management of the Windmill Marina, he has continually made improvements — all
while maintaining full slip occupancy. Key
initiatives include: building new docks and
a launch ramp; adding a new service building and office and ship’s store; starting a store and launch program for trailered boats; flood protection improvements and
Riley said he is proud of the staff that
helped create the marina what it is today,
and continues to provide top notch service.
“We are a Chevrolet marina with Mercedes
Benz service,” he added.
In 2005, Windmill Marina was awarded
the North Central Marina Association
Marina of the Year Award.
Windmill Marina also was certified as a
Minnesota Clean Marina in 2012, and is
one of only 12 marinas in the state with
this designation. The certification process
is a stringent process with the objectives
to protect the environment by reducing
pollution, restoring wildlife habitats, and
creating safer waterways.
“This program helps preserve the waterways that we love to boat on,” Riley said.
He said he is involved in the certification
process and is pleased to share five additional marinas will be certified this spring.
OPENING NEW DOORWAYS
Riley has been an active member of the
Association of Marine Industries for
nearly 30 years. The AMI, through its subsidiary the International Marina Institute, provides training for its members, including the prestigious CMM certification.
With rigorous training in marina management, regulations, ethics and safety, CMMs are regarded as the elite in the marina and recreational boating industry.
Riley was awarded the CMM designation
1997. Today, there are just over 300
CMMs in the world.
“Continued education and training, whether
through the AMI or other organizations, is critical for the future of marinas. It helps us retain the employees we have and attract the next generation of marina workers,” Riley explained.
Riley is known for providing training and
mentorship, having hired and trained well over 100 high school-aged summer employees and connected with local halfway houses to help find opportunities for recovering adults.
“The reason I am in my position today is because of great mentors, and I want to pay that forward,” Riley said.
In his free time, Riley said he looks forward to riding his Harley Davidson, going to Minnesota Vikings football games and spending time with family and friends and the boating community.
He and his wife, Karen, boat on Lake Michigan and are planning a trip around the Great Loop.
Riley also is active in his church and enjoys
volunteering. He recently started a new business, Riley Marine Group, and plans to stay involved in marine organizations, holding multiple board positions and regularly attending shows and conventions.
“I look forward to continuing to serve the marine industry and mentor the next generation of marina managers.”