When I first accepted the nomination to be on the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) Board of Directors in 2002, little did I realize that this was the first step in a long journey — an odyssey, if you will. Shortly after joining the board, PLCAA entered into merger discussions with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), which ultimately created PLANET in 2005.
This journey turned into a great adventure. I’ve logged thousands of air and car miles, visited different regions of the country, and connected with people who I would otherwise never have had the privilege of seeing and meeting. Every place that I’ve traveled, I have met outstanding PLANET members who are among the great leaders of our industry — operators, contractors, and suppliers. Many of these individuals have become close friends.
During this journey, I have seen PLANET blossom into one of the premier green industry associations in the country and witnessed many milestones. These achievements have been impressive — the Green Industry Expo merged with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI’s) trade show, PLANET unveiled a new governance structure, the STARS Safe Company Program was born, and Renewal & Remembrance has continued to grow to become one of the top volunteer events in the country.
Last year, we launched the PLANET Day of Service, an industry-wide show of support for our communities, schools, and charitable organizations. This year, PLANET announced the beginning of a new era in its certification program with the introduction of the Landscape Industry Certified designation, a brand that is both easily recognizable and marketable. This year also marks the launch of PLANET Universe, a veritable Google for the green industry; enhancement of an already robust education program; and partnership discussions with state and national associations to further our cause of truly being the leading voice of the green industry.
Throughout this journey, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a great leadership team, one that includes the board of directors, the chairs and members of our committees, and, of course, the PLANET staff — an incredibly dedicated group of professionals under the expert leadership of Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP. The support was bolstered by a staff and volunteers who worked as a true team, making my journey as president very rewarding and enjoyable. Special thanks go to past president Jason Cupp, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, for helping to pave the way to my presidency, and to incoming president Dave Snodgrass, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, for his strong support.
I am both proud and humbled to be part of this great organization; it has been a great and rewarding ride. I have truly received more than I have given, and feel blessed to have had this privilege.
As with any journey, there are some special moments. Here are a few of mine:
- Playing golf in a 40-degree rain shower with John Gibson, Landscape Industry Certified Technician, both of us too stubborn to quit after everyone else had headed for the clubhouse.
- Walking the GIE+Expo tradeshow floor with Jerry Grossi, Landscape Industry Certified Technician, visiting exhibitors, and talking with attendees.
- Listening to Tom Shotzbarger, Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, identify all the plants in Latin as we walked through a garden in Vermont.
- Hiking the Oregon coastal mountains with Dave Snodgrass.
- Observing the wonders of Sedona, Arizona, with my wife, Sandi.
- Visiting land care operators and the media in northern Ohio with PLANET staff Sabeena Hickman and Heather Finney.
- Enjoying a boat excursion on Lake Erie with Mike Dietrich and his wife, Karen.
- Spreading lime alongside my son, Joe, at Arlington National Cemetery.
These are a few of the special memories that I will always cherish. Now it is time to pass the baton on to Dave Snodgrass who will continue in his journey of making PLANET the very best that it can be.
Here are a couple of final thoughts. One of my personal charges when I became president was to help get the message out that being a PLANET member and taking advantage of its many resources and networking opportunities are the best ways to raise the level of professionalism within the industry. The previously mentioned initiatives are simply a confirmation of this. So, too, is the upcoming Student Career Days in Atlanta in April. PLANET and its affiliation with colleges and universities around the country help ensure that future green industry members have the knowledge and skills to become true professionals.
Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician