The StarGuard Elite team has vast experience across all aspects of the aquatic and hospitality industries across its client partners, program leaders and medical professionals.
PresidentREAD BIOS »
CTO/VP Technology & Brand ManagementREAD BIOS »
Founder and Head of Product DevelopmentREAD BIOS »
VP, Training & OperationsREAD BIOS »
Director of Finance and AccountingREAD BIOS »
Medical DirectorREAD BIOS »
Application ArchitectREAD BIOS »
Cruise Line Specialist
East Coast US and International
Safety SpecialistREAD BIOS »
Advisory BoardREAD BIOS »
Advisory BoardREAD BIOS »
Advisory BoardREAD BIOS »
Advisory BoardREAD BIOS »
As President of StarGuard ELITE (SGE), Wess oversees the aquatic industry's fastest growing aquatic safety company that provides services to over 300 clients worldwide, including many of the largest private and public organizations. SGE's unique approach to being objective driven and consistently evolving safety cultures has helped build a client portfolio that is the most diverse of any other training program or provider. Prior to his role at SGE, Wess worked in numerous capacities throughout the aquatics industry with leadership positions at various levels for many of the world's top resorts and waterparks including Atlantis the Palm Dubai, Walt Disney World, and Palace Entertainment. Additionally, Wess has worked with projects of every size providing support for initial concept, construction, operational development, safety consulting, staff training, and regulatory compliance.
Since 2014, Wess has served in a leadership capacity for the World Waterpark Association's Safety Committee and is currently the Chair of the committee. Additionally Wess speaks at industry conferences and trainings around the world and is active within numerous other industry organizations. Wess received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Based in Orlando, Wess and his wife Keisha have two children whose free time is spent around water, sports, Disney World, and traveling.
CTO/VP Technology & Brand Management
Jason has been an innovator and leader in the information technology field since 1996. His creative, professional, and educational experience has been an invaluable asset to various organizations throughout his career. As part of the instructional team, Jason helped build what became the Digital Media program at the University of Central Florida. Through this experience, Jason moved into digital research for the Institute for Simulation and Training, early conceptual digital development for Universal's Islands of Adventure, and creative work for Walt Disney World.
Jason is a customer experience expert with a strong background in enterprise development for organizations such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Amertron, NCR, and Bonnier. He brings his agile leadership, ability to adapt to technological trends, and drive for quality to StarGuard ELITE. Since 2016, Jason has been a member of the World Waterpark Association's Technology Committee, and a contributing author for World Waterpark Magazine.
Founder and Head of Product Development
Jill has been honored as one of the Top 100 Leaders in the aquatic profession for 2003 and 2004, as featured in Aquatics International magazine, and consistently honored as one of the “25 most powerful people in the world of aquatics”. Along with this recognition comes responsibility, and she has been called on as an expert to testify in drowning or aquatic related injury cases. Jill also serves on the writing committee for the Model Aquatic Health Code sponsored by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and is the writing committee chair for the APSP-12 Standard for Risk Management and Operational Safety at Public Swimming Pools. Jill was entered the World Waterpark Hall of Fame.
VP, Training & Operations
Joel Riker's experience in the Aquatic industry is vast. Since 2000, where he began his career as a lifeguard at Walt Disney World's Blizzard Beach, Joel's expertise in auditing and lifeguard training has given him the opportunity to travel the world. Joel has held roles as Aquatics Director at both Water Country in New Hampshire and the Brentwood YMCA in Tennessee. He has also been a part of two grand opening resorts at the Double JJ Ranch and Golf Resort in Michigan and has consulted for Atlantis-The Palm in Dubai. Joel has extensive experience managing aquatic facility operations and conducting both lifeguard classes and lifeguard instructor training classes. As a Senior Support Specialist with StarFish Aquatics Institute, he conducted StarReviews and scheduled random, unannounced aquatic safety audits.
Director of Finance and Accounting
Lorena Navarrete is the Director of Finance and Accounting for StarGuard ELITE, where she leads a multidisciplinary team dedicated to providing the best finance service and solutions to clients and shareholders. Lorena joined SGE in 2019, after spending 2 years with Acosta Tax & Advisory, PA. as Tax Consultant for small business. She also worked with Marriott Vacation Club International as Senior Assistant Controller, with oversight for the Latin American and Orlando regions. Lorena brings with her a wealth of accounting, financial and auditing experience, including resort and condo-hotel operations with Sonesta Hotels and Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Residences.
Lorena received her B.S. in Accounting from Central Florida University and will complete her M.B.A program from Florida Atlantic University in 2021.
Lifeguarding has been a large part of Dr. Justin Sempsrott's life since the mid-1990s, when he started as a beach lifeguard in Jacksonville, Fla. That experience led, in part, not only to his career as an emergency physician, but also his role as executive director of Lifeguards Without Borders. The organization is dedicated to lessening the global burden of drowning through training, research and lifeguarding themselves, even. “We've done advocacy work in other countries to try and spread the word or expand existing drowning prevention programs,” Sempsrott says. Sempsrott and co-founder Dr. Andrew Schmidt worked together as lifeguards in Jacksonville, and each had several experiences of rescuing people while vacationing around the world before founding Lifeguards Without Borders. They've written journal articles and presented drowning prevention information to the health-care community as well as being active in training guards in other countries.
Chris is a user interface/user experience architect with career deployments for Holiday Inn, CVS, Harris, USA Today, Darden and Olive Garden. He guides us with his vision and experience of delivering robust single page applications throughout his career.
Client Partner, Central US
With over 20 years of experience in the lifeguarding industry, Jessica started lifeguarding for local pools at the age of 15. She has also worked as a middle school teacher and special education paraprofessional. Her experience teaching and lifeguarding prepared her for more than a decade as a Park District Aquatic Manager and Supervisor in the Chicago suburbs. She has extensive experience in facility operations, swimming lessons and swim team, and conducting lifeguard classes. She is currently serving as past president of the Suburban Parks and Recreation Association (SPRA) and has also served as a chairperson for the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) Aquatic Committee. In 2011, she was recognized as IPRA’s Facility Management Sections Young Professional of the Year. Jessica has a Masters Degree in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism from the University of Illinois and a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Drake University.
As Client Partner, Jessica serves the Upper Midwest region with a specific focus on the Chicago area. She implemented an onboarding process to ensure that all new clients receive the best possible customer service and training. She has also enjoys working with potential clients as well current clients to create opportunities to network and assist each other. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, three kids, and dog in Wisconsin.
Client Partner, Cruise Line Specialist
Robert currently oversees our Cruise Line operations providing support to cruise ships worldwide, as well as supporting main land operations with auditing, consulting, and training.
Robert has been in the hospitality and recreation industry since 2002, starting in the United Kingdom where he worked his way up to head of department for leisure for Alton Towers. Alton Towers had the largest indoor waterpark in the UK at the time, and Robert gained theme park experience, high wire rescue and industrial rope access certification, hotel and conference experience. He then moved on to open the LEGOLAND Malaysia Waterpark; the largest for Merlin Entertainment when it was completed. He implemented all safety and operational standards while assisting with operations for the theme park and the hotel.
In 2015 Rob moved to the United States to oversee the LEGOLAND Florida Waterpark operations before joining the StarGuard ELITE team in 2018. Rob brings well balanced experience in aquatic risk management and operations to SGE through his years of experience as a certified instructor for multiple organizations in the UK and the USA, and presenting at the European WWA conference discussing water quality and daily operation standards. He also brings a wealth of international and leisure experience to the team, experienced in health and safety standards within the UK and USA through I.O.S.H and O.S.H.A training.
Client Partner, Midwest US
Stanton ("SJ") has over 20 years of experience working in the aquatics industry. SJ spent the majority of his career working with his local parks and recreation department starting as a lifeguard. SJ has been leading lifeguard courses since 2001 and has certified over 1000 lifeguards. SJ went on to manage several of the outdoor aquatic facilities in his hometown of Columbia, MO, and continued his role for the brand new recreation center that opened in 2001. SJ was an Aquatic Specialist for Columbia Parks and Recreation for 11 years, overseeing the operations for hiring, training, swim lessons, water-fitness and concessions at six facilities.
In addition to his operational experience, SJ has many years of auditing facilities worldwide and has worked closely with many clients on current operations as well as providing integral support for those opening brand new facilities. In addition to leading IDCs and conducting audits for SGE, SJ has also been supporting Royal Caribbean's cruise ships and private island destinations.
Client Partner, Western US
Nick Hawco serves as SGE's Client Partner for the Western United States. Nick has over 15 years of experience in the aquatics industry and has worked in numerous roles. Starting as a lifeguard, Nick worked for several park district facilities in the Chicagoland region in various leadership and Lifeguard Instructor capacities. Since 2018 Nick has been a key member of SGE's National Faculty and Auditor team. Nick has traveled throughout the world and visited over 100 facilities to provide training, auditing, or operational support to the SGE client family.
Nick has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University with a minor in Secondary Science Education. Prior to joining SGE full-time, Nick has spent 7 years blending a life in aquatics with public education as a High School Science teacher. As Nick's role at SGE increased by supporting clients at IDCs and through the auditing process, he made the decision to commit to the aquatics industry full time.
Client Partner, East Coast US and International
Bruce has had a diverse career in the aquatic safety industry that spans two decades. It has afforded him the opportunity to work with the world's top water parks including Aquaventure at Atlantis, the Palm in Dubai, Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon, and Palace Entertainment's Sandcastle Water Park.
He began his lifeguarding career at the age of 15 at local pools and camps, and moved though out the industry from water parks to pool management companies. Bruce is a 2006 Penn State University graduate with a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership.
Lea Lampe will serve as SGE's Safety Specialist and will be conducting various client support services for SGE training programs and operations. Lea has over six years of progressive experience in the aquatics industry. Her first splash into aquatics was working as a lifeguard at Sahara Sam’s, an indoor/outdoor Waterpark in New Jersey. Lea advanced in the company to hold multiple leadership positions.
In 2020, Lea was supervising the Aquatics department and holding the title of Lead Instructor for the facility. Lea has experience overseeing aquatic operations, lifeguard training, and safety training, with three years at SGE and more to come.
As part of the SGE team, Lea has been a cornerstone of training and auditing for the team, helping aquatic facilities evolve operations, train staff, and maintain safety standards.
“I really enjoy working with the SGE clients and helping them achieve their goals, and it’s been a dream of mine to progress in aquatics, and SGE is the best company to be working for as a leader in aquatics.”
Mike Friscia is a results-oriented Executive with extensive experience which includes the development and implementation of successful operating plans focused on driving revenue and profits; realizing efficiencies while maintaining a high level of service; in a safe and secure environment.
A focused leader, Mike utilizes management skills, experience and education to motivate employees to not only meet but exceed the goals and mission of the business. At Innovative Attraction Management, Mike leads a diverse organization focused on “Turn-Key” Attraction Management, Amusement Industry Operations Consulting, and Aquatic Risk Management.
His experience with Palace Entertainment included responsibilities as Vice President of the Water Park division, and providing vision, direction, and leadership to 11 senior level Park General Managers. Additionally, Mike led the Water Park and Theme Park divisions for PARC Management and spent 10+ years at Walt Disney World in various roles.
James Harhi is an entrepreneur at heart. He started his aquatics career as a lifeguard at Disney's Contemporary Resort. He quickly worked his way through Disney's management development program working at Disney's Blizzard Beach, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Winter Summerland Mini Golf. James settled into a Business Development Manager role overseeing Disney's recreation related businesses, arcades, and contracts.
In 2002, James left Walt Disney World to purchase his first company, Amertron. Amertron developed from just 15 employees and $1M in revenue to 70 employees and over $6M in revenue. He sold part of Amertron in 2011 and re-branded his Arcade Service company to JFH Technologies.
James is an operations and process expert. He introduces technology to streamline processes which improves the employee and customer experience.
John Hyltin serves as Chief Executive Officer of Proparks Attractions Group and brings over 30 years involvement in financial and general management. This diverse and broad experience includes companies large and small in various industries including airline, oil and gas, manufacturing, hospitality, service industries, and education, among others. John brings significant involvement in strategic planning, turnaround management, mergers & acquisitions, restructuring and capital sourcing and reallocation.
Curt Caffey serves as President of Proparks Attractions Group and is a Certified Attractions Executive (IAAPA) who has served numerous attraction, hospitality, and real estate companies throughout the last three decades. Throughout his career, Curt has adopted a highly relational approach to build win-win opportunities for companies like Schlitterbahn, Ogden Entertainment, Wet ’n Wild Waterparks, Raging Waters Waterparks, EPR Properties, CNL Lifestyle Properties and numerous other iconic global attractions and recreation-based companies. Curt also currently serves on the Board of Directors of IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry.