From AMA Magazine

Russ Ehnes has a long history of fighting for off-highway rights. He continues that work as AMA Board chair.

Russ Ehnes, who has been an AMA member for 23 consecutive years and spent decades advocating for off-highway access rights, was selected as Chair of the AMA Board of Directors during a meeting in February 2020.  In addition to serving on the AMA Board as the member representative from the Northwest Region, Ehnes is the former executive director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. He also has led the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association and the Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association. He has chaired the Montana OHV Grant Advisory Committee and has served on the Federal Advisory Committee for the U.S. Forest Service Planning Rule.  Ehnes replaced outgoing chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw, former member representative from the Northeast Region. McNally-Bradshaw served on the board since 2009 and had been the AMA board chair since 2013. She exited her position due to term limits. 

We asked Ehnes a few questions to help members get to know him better.

American Motorcyclist: What was your first reaction to being selected Board Chair?

Russ Ehnes: I really felt honored to have the trust of the board. Iʼve been on the board for a couple years now, so I know being the chair takes commitment and will require some extra time and work, but Iʼm ready. Iʼve developed strong personal and professional relationships with other board members, so I was encouraged by several of them to run for the chair position. I declared my candidacy in January, so there wasnʼt really an element of surprise.

AM: What first prompted you to seek a seat on the Board?

RE: I was appointed to the AMA board to serve the remainder of a term when the board seat for my region became vacant. I had just retired from my position as executive director of the NOHVCC, after serving in that role for nearly 20 years, when I got the call from AMA to see if I was interested. Iʼve worked with AMA leadership and the government relations staff for over 20 years and have been an AMA member for 23 years, so Iʼve always been a strong supporter of the AMA, but my NOHVCC job simply didnʼt allow me the time to participate as a board member. Since it was the remainder of a term, I agreed to take the spot to see if I could contribute and see if I really had the time to do the job right, along with my new job and my other volunteer jobs. I really enjoyed my time on the board so I decided to run in the next board election for my region.

AM: What experience has your time on the Board provided that will help you in your new role?

RE: My time on the board has allowed me to really get to know the other board members and the executive staff of the AMA. The executive staff has a tough job, because motorcycling is such a diverse sport, and motorcyclists are diverse and passionate people. The staff work hard balancing the needs of an amazing variety of recreational riders, racers, amateur and pro racing, government relations and helping and training advocates. They also need to keep the association healthy. I think joining the board would be eye-opening for anyone. It takes a couple years of listening and participating to wrap your head around all the facets of the AMA and what a complex job it is to manage.

AM: What else would you like to say?

RE: Itʼs an exciting time for the AMA. More people are joining the sport, and the potential for growth is enormous. As board chair, I have several priorities.

First, when I was with NOHVCC I was blessed with a great board of directors. We figured out how to work as a team, staff and the board members, to make the best decisions we could for the riders and the organization.  I want to help improve the culture of the AMA by sharing my experiences and fostering an environment that allows for the best possible communication and decision making.

Second, I want to help build and improve relationships between the AMA, industry groups, and other national advocacy organizations.  Weʼre all on the same team, but I think itʼs easy to get so wrapped up in what we are doing as individual groups that we may miss opportunities to help each other and work together.  Iʼm interested in results for riders like me and you, so anything we can do to get better results by working together is worth the effort.

Third, I want to look for ways we can tell our story about the work the AMA is doing to protect motorcycling and improve riding for all riders.  Racing is a huge part of the AMA and, rightfully so, gets a lot of attention.  What most riders outside our membership donʼt hear about is the work done by the government relations department, AMA districts and individual members that protect our right to ride on a daily basis.