By RAY QUIROGA
South Padre Parade
Jammie Barnhill has a secret she doesn’t mind sharing. In fact, she wants the world – or at least the Rio Grande Valley and visitors to county parks on South Padre – to know that she has the best job in the world and she’s looking for others to share in the experience.
Barnhill, the newly named Coordinator for the recently established Cameron County Beach Safety Program is actively searching for other would-be lifeguards. Just weeks on the job, Barnhill is literally in the beginning phases of establishing the landmark program which will be headquartered at Isla Blanca Park and will cover county beaches up to County Access 5. The City of South Padre has had its own program in the form of the acclaimed SPI Beach Patrol which the county had contracted to patrol portions of its beaches.
This past winter however, the county opted to begin its own program. Barnhill, who relocated to the Valley from Illinois to head the University of Texas-Brownsville recreational aquatics and events center three years ago, and later joined the City of South Padre Island Beach Patrol, is currently in the opening stages of beginning what she hopes to be among the nation’s elite lifeguarding programs defined by its culture, professionalism and unflappable standards. “Our purpose is to help keep our beachgoers safe in and around the water and to help educate our community about beach safety,” Barnhill said.
As of the time of this interview, Barnhill was a one-woman show, contemplating everything from uniform design to ordering gear and equipment to formulating a strategy on how to best protect beachgoers once the program is fully staffed.
That strategy will vary slightly from the SPI Beach Patrol in that, she said, various towers have been constructed by the county which will be strategically placed throughout the county beaches and will eventually be manned by lifeguards as well as having mobile patrols cruise the beaches and waters.
At age 26, Barnhill explained that her career and especially her assignment as program coordinator have moved quickly. “Before I moved here I’d been involved in aquatics and I’ve been lifeguarding for years,” Barnhill explained, adding that she applied for the job when her SPI Beach Patrol supervisor informed her that county was looking to start its own beach safety program.
As it was mentioned at the top of this piece, the program is currently hiring supervisors and lifeguards. For more information and for an application, interested parties are being asked to call or text Barnhill at (956) 455-8727. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and must be a strong swimmer. A swim test will be part of the hiring process. Applicants must be able to swim 500 meters in less than 10 minutes. Beachgoers are also invited to “Like” the Cameron County Beach Safety Program page on Facebook.