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Executive Directors

Beth Spilman, Interim Executive Director 2019 - present

On May 29, 2019 the ACA Board of Directors appointed Beth Spilman of Richmond, VA to serve as interim Executive Director while the ACA undertakes a search for a new permanent leader.


Spilman brings a wealth of experience in leadership, management, and strategic planning, in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and darned an MBA from UVA's Darden School of Business. She has spent most of her career as a marketing and operations executive with financial services firms, including American Financial Group and General Motors Acceptance Corporation.


Most recently, she spent 10 years leading a privately held mortgage bank through a period of explosive growth. Her work in the nonprofit sector includes serving on the University of Virginia Physicians Group Board of Directors, the UVA Jefferson Scholars National and Regional Selection Committees, the University of the South: Sewanee Parents Council, and the Garden Club of America's 2020 Annual Meeting Committee.


"It's an honor to be entrusted with this responsibility. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with ACA's dedicated staff, passionate volunteers, and a wide range of partner organizations to help ACA continue its mission of improving Education, Stewardship, Competition, and Recreation for the paddlesports community," Spilman said.


"I am proud to lead such a venerable and vibrant organization, and I am excited to chart a course for ACA's future."



Wade Blackwood, Executive Director: 2009 - 2019

Wade is the fifth Executive Director of the ACA.  He originally joined as the Chief Financial Officer and then became the Executive Director in November of 2009.

Under Blackwood’s leadership and with the support of regional and local volunteers, the entire ACA national staff will continue to diligently represent the interests of over 50 million people in the U.S. who kayak, canoe and raft annually.

"These are challenging times for nonprofit organizations and we are excited to have someone with such a strong financial background as Wade Blackwood step in as the Executive Director. Wade and the ACA team are eager to continue the 130 year ACA tradition of making the world a better place to paddle." – Former Board President, Dr. Kirk Havens

Blackwood is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras and earned an MBA from William and Mary’s Mason School of Business.

"We have dedicated, passionate and talented employees, volunteers, and members who all have something valuable to offer, and I intend to harness their passion into products and services that will help make the world a better place to paddle. As the ACA’s Executive Director, I will ensure that in the midst of this challenging economic climate we will seek creative opportunities to sustainably grow the organization.” - Wade


Martin Bartels, Executive Director: 2007 - 2009

Martin BartelsMr. Bartels took over the organization in a time of significant transformation.  Key objectives during his tenure included design of the National Paddlesports Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia; design and implementation of a 25-year strategic vision; and launch of a national campaign to involve thousands of communities in paddlesport recreation and waterway stewardship.  His role also included leadership of Paddlesport Publishing, Inc, which produced the award-winning "Paddler Magazine” and other outdoor titles.


Mr. Bartels has been involved in nonprofit leadership and transformation since 2004, when he served as Director of Marketing and Communications for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).  While there he applied corporate marketing and business principles to rebranding the organization, including development and launch of a new website, membership magazine, and building a cause marketing portfolio with several corporate partners.

Prior to his nonprofit career, Mr. Bartels worked for almost 21 years in journalism and new media, culminating in a role as director of editorial operations for AOL CityGuide. During his journalism career he was a syndicated travel and arts writer whose work appeared in more than 50 newspapers including the Chicago Sun Times and the Jerusalem Post.  He has paddled in six countries and more than 30 states, including Hawaii and Alaska.


Pamela Dillon, Executive Director: 2002 - 2007

Pam DillonPam, has been an avid paddler since the early 1970's.  An ACA Instructor Trainer (IT) in canoe and kayak, she also served as an Instructor Trainer Educator in both disciplines. Appointed as Chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft in 2007, she returned to her roots where she began as a State Watercraft Officer in 1977.  With ODNR she assisted in the development of the Ohio River Rescue Training program, the first state-sponsored training program of its kind in the United States.  Pam served as Chairperson of the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) from 1991-1993.  She was named to the National Boating Safety Hall of Fame in 2006.  In 2005, she received appointment to the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) and was reappointed for a second term through 2009.


Pam has received recognition for her work from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, National Safe Boating Council, the National Water Safety Congress, the Professional Paddlesports Association, the United States Power Squadrons and has received numerous federal, state, and local awards. She has also received the ACA's Excellence in Instruction Award.


Jeff Yeager, Executive Director: 1990 - 2001

Jeff YeagerJeff spent 24 years working as a CEO and senior executive with national nonprofit organizations in Washington, DC before launching his career as an author, freelance writer, broadcast personality, and public speaker in 2004.


During his career in the nonprofit sector, Yeager served as the CEO of the American Canoe Association, the oldest recreation-based waterway conservation in the U.S. (founded in 1880) and a National Governing Body of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Previously he served as director of the American Youth Hostels, the U.S. affiliate of the International Youth Hostel Federation.He also served as the director of fundraising for the Partnership for Public Service, a think-tank based in Washington.


Specializing in an offbeat blend of original humor and practical advice for living a better life by spending and consuming less, Yeager was dubbed "The Ultimate Cheapskate” by Matt Lauer on the NBC TODAY Show, where he frequently appears as a guest correspondent.He also hosted a series of segments, $aving Green by Living Green, on G-Word, an environmental news show on Discovery television's new PLANET GREEN network, and is launching a national syndicated feature series, Ultimate Cheapskate's TV Tips, starting in fall 2009.He has also appeared on CNN, ABC News, CNBC, FOX News, PBS, and dozens of local TV stations around the country. Yeager is a popular guest on the nationwide talk radio circuit as well, having been interviewed on more than 200 radio stations including shows broadcast on National Public Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the Oprah & Friends network.


Yeager's first book, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches:A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less, was published by Random House / Broadway Books in January 2008.Road Map is currently in its sixth reprint and was the #1 Personal Finance book on second book, The Cheapskate Next Door, is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2010, also from Random House / Broadway Books.His work is also featured on his award-winning website, and Yeager writes feature blogs on the following websites:,,, AARP's, and


Since leaving the work-a-day world, Yeager has done just that.As an active volunteer, Yeager serves on the boards of four nonprofit organizations involved in education and the environment. But most of all, Yeager has used his newfound financial freedom to pursue his passion for writing and multi-media journalism.


Jeff currently lives just outside of Washington, DC, with Denise, his wife of 25 years.He grew up in rural Ohio, and is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Bowling Green State University.He was a Rhodes Scholar nominee and was voted funniest student in his fourth grade class.




Joyce Malone Lantz, Executive Director: 1979 - 1990

Joyce Malone LantzJoyce was hired to open the National Office in Lorton, VA, in February, 1979. Initially Office Manager, she was soon promoted to Executive Secretary, a title popular in sports organizations and associations.  A love of the outdoors added paddling to favorite pasttimes such as hiking, camping and skiing.

The office grew with the organization, moving to Newington, VA, from Lorton. Joyce became active with the National Safe Boating Council as well as serving on a select board making grants to grass roots river organizations.  During this time, she completed her Bachelor's degree, and soon thereafter, was named the first Executive Director of the ACA.


During her 12 year tenure, the organization celebrated its 100th anniversary, helped host both a pre-World and World Championship, fought numerous battles, and matured as a business.  Through a series of grant programs, the ACA achieved a great deal in the area of safety and education.  Working with volunteers and staff was particularly rewarding, according to Joyce.


She now lives (and paddles) in Western North Carolina.

ACA Mission

Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling, stewardship support to help protect paddling environments, and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration, and recreation.

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