She did it! Johnson kayaks from Mackinac Island to mainland promoting online services and outdoor recreation

May 31, 2013Pure Michigan Plate Example


Seven-mile trip in 18-foot sailing kayak highlights, other causes

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. – Ruth Johnson, wet but smiling, pulled into the Mackinaw City-Straits State Harbor today after a seven-mile kayaking trip from Mackinac Island. She made the trip to promote the Secretary of State office's online services at

Johnson, who earlier this month rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to promote motorcycle safety, said she wanted to do something unusual to draw attention to so she decided to take her personal 18-foot Hobie Cat kayak, which is also outfitted with a sail, on the trip.

"I feel great &#8211 this is a Pure Michigan moment against a beautiful backdrop at the start of the summer season!" said Johnson who was met with cheers as she pulled into the dock after the trip. "Our state has so much to offer &#8211 the Great Lakes, magnificent state parks and jewels like Mackinac Island."

Before the trip, Johnson met with business leaders who were on the island for the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference. She acknowledged the kayaking adventure was a little unconventional for a Secretary of State.

"We simply don't have enough money to promote our online services at and this seemed like a unique, low-cost way to get the word out," she said, noting that Secretary of State staffing levels are 25 percent below what they were a decade ago so it's critical to promote online services. "The more people we have online means fewer people in line, reducing the wait times at our branch offices."

Johnson also thanked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry for partnering with her on the event. They both provided support, including the use of the state marinas on Mackinac Island and in Mackinaw City.

"Secretary of State Johnson has been a good friend to our department and a staunch supporter of Michigan's unmatched natural resources and quality outdoor recreation opportunities," said DNR Director Keith Creagh. "We appreciate that support, because is a quick, easy way for residents to renew a license plate, check ‘YES' for the $11 Recreation Passport, and enjoy state parks, boat launches, free Recreation 101 programs, and a whole lot more."

Johnson is an avid kayaker and owns the kayak she used for the trip. The boat is powered by pedals or paddles and is also outfitted with a sail. The sail features advertising for and the boat has decals promoting the Pure Michigan license plate, Michigan's Recreation Passport, organ donation and Johnson's OPERATION: OUR TROOPS COUNT initiative.

Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. said the unusual trip is a great way to promote Pure Michigan and great online services.

"I applaud Secretary Johnson's courage and creativity in finding a way to promote both our Pure Michigan brand and the efficiency of doing business online with the state of Michigan," Finney said. "It's as true in economic development as other areas of state services, online business services and communications create more efficient experiences for state and business customers. The ExpressSOS program is a prime example of making it easy to do business with the state."

The trip, which Johnson's team affectionately dubbed "Kayakinac," took Johnson from the Mackinac Island State Harbor to the Mackinaw City &#8211 Straits State Harbor. The water temperature was about 40 degrees. Winds during the crossing were 11 mph with gusts up to 27. Waves were from 1 ½ to 2 feet. Johnson, who has her fishing license, planned to drop a fishing line during the crossing.

The kayak will be making appearances throughout Michigan this summer, including as a float in the Traverse City Cherry Festival parade. Those interested in Johnson's travels can track her progress on the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at and Facebook at offers nearly every service available at Michigan Secretary of State offices. Customers can renew their standard driver's license (except when a photo is required), get their tabs and copies of vehicle registrations, renew their boating registrations, change their address and sign up on Michigan's Organ Donor Registry.

Customers who want information about branch office locations, hours and services may visit They also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

 For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at
517-373-2520 or by cell at 517-980-5938.