Green Media, a division of M2MEDIA360 — publisher of Arbor Age, Landscape and Irrigation, Outdoor Power Equipment and SportsTurf — is proud to present the 2011 selections for “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”
Green Media’s “Most Influential People in the Green Industry” were nominated by their peers for their ongoing contributions to the Green Industry. The professionals selected for this honor were chosen from throughout the Green Industry, and exemplify a commitment to the industry and a widespread influence on their peers.
Green Media congratulates all of those selected to this year’s list of “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”
Mark Chisholm is a three-time winner of the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) International Tree Climbing Championship. His expertise in tree care has made him a sought-after consultant and industry spokesman for the world of arboriculture. He is a regular presenter at industry trade shows; he lectures at Rutgers University, Cornell University and Hofstra University; and he performs on-the-job training for professionals around the globe.
Deep roots in the industry
Chisholm — a third-generation arborist with the Aspen Tree Expert Company, Inc., Jackson, N.J. — grew up in the industry.
“Early on, everything that influenced me came through my family,” said Chisholm. “They have always been very in tune with the industry in our own region, and then started branching out.”
Chisholm’s father, Steve, has served on numerous industry boards, has been president of ISA and other industry organizations, and is still very active in the industry as a committee member of ANSI who helps write ANSI regulations.
According to Mark, growing up in the tree care industry is probably like growing up in any family-owned business — the business is just a part of you.
“Before you blink an eye, you are a teenager and you can identify a red oak from a white oak or a white pine from a Norway spruce (instead of calling everything a Christmas tree),” he said. “A lot of things trickle in without you even knowing it.
“Family businesses do business 24/7,” he added. “It’s talk at the dinner table, it’s problems getting discussed and solved at eight-o’clock at night — so you can’t help but be a part of it.”
But something that always made Mark want to be part of the business was the camaraderie and the way everyone treated each other when they came in from work.
“I would see my father, uncles, godfather and everyone else coming in after work, and joking around,” he said. “It made me want to be a part of it.”
Mark was interested in progressive concepts about tree care equipment, techniques and the climbing aspect of the business.
“I went to trade shows and got super-excited by listening to other people speak, and learning new tricks,” Mark said. “I can’t really describe the exact feeling inside, except to say that it was exuberance to want to go back to work, try new things, and then build on it. That sparked something in me to want to create, to want to be better, to want to share what I learned as I became a more educated climber.”
According to Mark, he still keeps that feeling in the back of his mind to this day, and always strives to spark something in everyone he meets that makes them want to learn and progress.
For a time, Mark thought of pursuing other interests, such as drawing and architecture, or anatomy and physiology.
“I was trying to make sure I didn’t take the easy road out, because I had done tree care my whole life up to that point,” he said.
But it was too difficult for Mark to even consider walking away from the tree care industry.
“It wasn’t until that time that I realized what a grab arboriculture had on me,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience, and made me realize that I needed to focus more energy on it. I received an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and was going to Rutgers, but realized I was pushing myself hard to do something I didn’t want to do. It was time to make a grown-up decision, and focus on the tree care profession.”
The heart of a champion
“As far as work goes, first and foremost, I’m an arborist and a tree climber,” Mark said. “That’s what I do day in and day out, and I try to be the best arborist I can be.”
But another title that defines Mark Chisholm is “champion.” As a three-time International Tree Climbing Champion (1997, 2001 and 2010), the competition has had a profound influence on Mark’s life.
“It made me key in and focus on safety,” he said. “If you go to a competition, and you are not doing something safely, you are disqualified — and that’s not something anyone wants to travel so far for. Then you do it every day, because you want it to be second nature.”
According to Mark, that emphasis on safety trickles down through the company, and influences everyone else.
Being a competitive tree climber also keeps Mark focused on physical fitness — something he takes with him into the workplace.
“Physical fitness can make you stronger not only physically, but mentally, help you push through difficult times at work, and give you the confidence you need to be good at what you do in tree work and tree climbing,” he said. “It’s a physical industry and is straining on the body, but mentally it can be very fatiguing. To do something that helps prepare you better for it is a good thing. My interest in physical fitness and working out helps me day in and day out.”
Winning the International Tree Climbing Championship opened a lot of doors for Mark, and has led to friendships around the world.
“Honestly, I don’t know many parts of the world that I couldn’t go, call somebody, and work with them for a day or stay at their house as a guest,” he said. “There are just so many people in the industry worldwide. The tree care industry is a brotherhood.”
For example, Mark has been to Italy several times, and has seen firsthand how the industry has grown there. He has helped put on workshops there in the past, and, through those workshops, has helped changed the professionalism of tree climbing in Italy.
“I can’t take the credit for that, because a lot of it is their effort to bring people together,” Mark said. “But it’s nice to be a part of something like that. That makes me feel like there is a lot of room for change and growth around the world, and I think it is going to keep moving that way.”
Mark’s accomplishments as an International Tree Climbing Champion helped him become a recognized expert in the industry, and he has been a spokesman for Stihl Inc. since 2001. According to Mark, being a spokesman allows him to travel to industry events, reach more people, and raise awareness for proper tree care and professionalism.
“It has added credibility to me as a person and as a spokesperson,” he said. “To be associated with a company that demands professionalism has helped me become more professional.”
Mark was recently the keynote speaker at an ISA event, and was asked to speak on the topic of professionalism.
“If someone says they want me to speak about professionalism, it means that all of those years of trying to do the right thing — and always displaying what people have taught me about being professional — have really paid off.”
In addition to influencing other industry professionals — and students — through his speaking engagements, his lectures and his role as a spokesman, Mark has a daily influence on others via his industry website, TreeBuzz.com.
As the Internet gained popularity during the mid-to-late 1990s, Mark thought about how it could be useful in our industry.
“That’s when I realized that a lot of what I gained is by going to events, getting together with people, sharing ideas, hearing other people’s thoughts, going back and tweaking those ideas, and doing more work to continue moving forward,” he said. “I started thinking about the forum aspect, how we could get groups of people to come in and further the exchange of ideas at their leisure, and open it up to where it is all over the world.”
In 1999, Mark brought the idea for TreeBuzz.com to his friend, Tom Dunlap, and together they started designing the website. It started with just three people in the forum. There are now more than 6,000 members, and many more who visit the site but don’t sign up as members (the site averages approximately 5.2 million hits per month).
“So many people use it, and I get so many messages thanking me for the site,” Mark said. “It is rewarding to see how the site has grown and how it has impacted people.”
Sharing a passion for the industry
Mark has influenced many others throughout his career, but there are many people who have influenced, and continue to influence him.
“Early on in my life, my father and grandfather instilled something in me that said, ‘Don’t take everything you hear from people as in one ear and out the other. Think about what they are saying and learn from it,’” said Mark. “For me, I’ve tried to listen to every person I’ve met and reflect on it later on. I’ve always tried to learn from it. I’ve learned so many things from so many people.”
Mark credits his father as being the biggest influence on him.
“He is an icon in the industry, and he taught me everything about the business — from being a great climber to pushing to do what you believe in,” Mark said. “He always taught me that if you believe in it, you can do it. You just have to follow the right channels and be persistent.”
Chisholm also credits his brother, Stephen, as being influential to his career, as well as people like Sam Noonan, Robert Phillips, Don Blair, Bob Weber, Ken Palmer and Rip Tompkins.
“All of these guys at some point in time — early on in my career especially — helped and influenced me in a real positive way,” Mark said. “And I could name numerous people beyond that who have helped me. I try to take something from [everyone] that is going to help me keep moving forward, but also keep me excited about what we are doing so that I can pass that along to other people as well.”
One of Mark’s mentors growing up is a man named Dave Shaw, who was the Monmouth County (N.J.) Shade Tree Commission superintendent. According to Mark, Shaw was always helping others, organizing events, finding facilities for workshops, facilitating tree climbing championships, and more.
According to Mark, Shaw told him, “If you really want to make an impact in the industry, you’ve just got to say ‘yes.’ People are going to ask you to do something. It may be hard for you. It may be a struggle at the time, but don’t underestimate how important it is. If you can say ‘yes,’ say ‘yes.’ Before you know it, you’ve got so many connections that the really important stuff keeps coming. It makes you have a lot of outlets to get your passion out there and be important to the industry.”
Eye on the future
Mark remains focused on the things that are important to him: helping and teaching others, growing his family’s business, and spending time with his family.
And although there is nothing definite about his future, or the future of the industry, Mark will continue to spread his knowledge, as well as public awareness of the professionalism of the tree care industry.
“With every tree, every customer, and everyone I’ve spoken to about tree care, I have tried to display my most professional image to try to change the perceptions about the industry,” he said. “I’ve always tried to touch them with the idea that I’m going to try to make a difference to the image that’s out there, and show them that we’re very skilled, we’re very well thought out, we’re very articulate, we describe what we’re doing, we’re scientifically based — and I make sure I display that.”
Mark added that he sometimes thinks about how many people he has influenced, and how he can reach more and more people.
“I want to make more people in the general public aware of how important trees are; how important it is to get the right people to care for your trees; and to not settle, because there are people out there who invest their whole lives in this profession.”
Mark added that the desire to keep moving forward with that message is one of the driving forces of his relationship with Stihl.
“My efforts to raise public awareness are good for everybody,” he said. “I raise awareness for the industry and the professionalism we display. That’s the biggest thing I see for my future. How I’m going to do that is the tough thing, but you’ve got to have a good goal if you are going to strive for it.”
With more than 30 years of industry experience, Stephen Cieslewicz, president and chief consultant at CN Utility Consulting, has established himself as a leading expert in utility vegetation management (UVM). In working with utilities, regulators and service providers around the world, Cieslewicz has been directly involved in the bulk of tree and power line issues of note. He was a principal UVM investigator for the Joint U.S./Canada Power Systems Outage Task Force, a principal author of all UVM related reports following the August 14, 2003 blackout, and is currently a member of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) FAC-003 drafting committees. Cieslewicz has testified as an expert at many significant legal, regulatory and legislative hearings. He is a past president of the Utility Arborist Association (UAA) and a recipient of numerous awards, including the UAA Utility Arborist Award, UAA President’s Award, and certificates of appreciation from the U.S. and Canadian governments. Cieslewicz is also a well known speaker and author on UVM issues.
Green Media: Please tell us a bit about your work in the utility vegetation management industry, and some of the major issues facing the UVM industry.
Cieslewicz: If I were to summarize the UVM industry and the work of utility arborists, I would say that we focus on “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of tree and power line coexistence.
On the “good” side, utility arborists have long advocated for tree planting, care and preservation, not only for the myriad of well-known tangible benefits, but also for the positive impact that well-placed trees can have on energy conservation and climate change. There are also innumerable wildlife and habitat benefits associated with a well-managed transmission ROW (right of way). Utility companies across North America have invested heavily in tree advocacy and actions, from tree planting and public education, to value-based research and development.
On the “bad” side, the number-one cause of blackouts and power outages across North America is related to trees growing or falling into energized lines; and some of the largest and most damaging wildland fires have been related to tree and power line conflicts. In addition to the billions of dollars spent annually on routine UVM work in North America we all, as rate payers and citizens, are impacted by billions of dollars in losses and damages that result from these “bad” byproducts of tree and power line conflicts. Also on the “bad” side, every week and a half we tragically lose, to electrocution, a green industry professional working in close proximity to energized lines. This statistic does not include the number of accidental electrocutions caused when children and adults climb trees near lines. Having been involved as an expert witness in countless cases like this, I can tell you that it is not a part of my job that I enjoy.
As far as the “ugly” side of my business, I ask the following rhetorical question: If you take a tree with the genetic potential to reach 60-plus feet in height and plant it underneath a 30-foot-tall power line, how long will it be before it looks really, really ugly?
Green Media: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the industry so far? And what do you see as your role in the future of the industry?
Cieslewicz: While I am extremely proud of the work I have done, and continue to do, with the Utility Arborist Association, International Society of Arboriculture, and the Edison Electric Institute, I think my biggest contribution to the industry is what I would call UVM industry advocacy work. Since my work as one of the principal UVM investigators for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the US/Canadian 2003 Blackout Task Force investigation, a good portion of my time has involved UVM laws and regulations. In addition to serving on each of the subsequent NERC FAC-003 drafting teams (developing the regulation that mandates the transmission UVM work of all North American utilities), over the last decade I have made routine trips to Washington, D.C., participated in numerous state regulatory hearings, and provided written and direct testimony concerning the importance and urgency of UVM work to lawmakers and federal and state agencies.
As for the future, I am very concerned about the possibility of another blackout, fire, or other tragedy as a result of pockets of bureaucratic obstacles that prevent the timely completion of required UVM work. Although a great deal of progress has been made in resolving these issues, there are still locations around the country where an erroneous requirement has slowed or stopped a utility from preventing a tree and power line conflict. I think I will be spending some of my time trying to resolve this issue in the future.
On a brighter note, I plan on spending more of my time bringing new technologies and services to the industry to better handle UVM activities and processes. My company has been somewhat of a trailblazer in bringing LIDAR to the UVM industry, and we are working with several other new technology solutions, which I am looking forward to bringing to market. The best part of my job is helping the industry work better, faster and cheaper.
Green Media: Who has influenced you both personally and professionally?
Cieslewicz: From the personal side, it has to be my family. I was raised with my four brothers in Montreal, Canada by two very caring and competent German immigrant parents, who instilled in us a very focused life and work ethic. Add to my upbringing the fact that my wife, two daughters, and son-in-law are all smarter, better educated and more talented and accomplished than I could ever hope to be, and it points to the influence of family in my life. Most of my accomplishments have come as a direct result of my family’s help, support and example.
It is much more difficult to assemble a list of the professionals I have been influenced by, without undoubtedly forgetting someone. The short list would include many current and past utility arborist/foresters; several academics from UC Berkley, UC Davis, and Purdue; and, interestingly enough, several current lawmakers and regulators. If I had to name names, I would have to include my CEO and Chairman of the Board Scott Packard. Since my company joined the Wright Service Corp. family, Scott has given me the flexibility, autonomy, motivation and resources to work on many initiatives that we believed would benefit and serve the industry. Scott understands the importance of getting involved with the issues that affect our profession. Last but not least, I would say Robert Novembri who started CNUC with me over a decade ago. Bob is currently a senior event investigator with NERC, and continues to amaze me with his skills and accomplishments.
Green Media: Tell us something about yourself outside of work that influences your approach in your professional career.
Cieslewicz: I have always been a science and reason guy, and that has led me to the skeptical movement as my hobby and personal interest of choice. To clarify what I mean, a skeptic is simply someone with an open mind that just has a higher standard of care when it comes to evaluating the evidence of claims. While critical thinking and skepticism has been around for centuries, I am still amazed by daily examples of how this philosophy, of simply getting to the likely truth, is ignored in favor of a slick sales pitch. Having a foundation in science, logic, evidence, and reason has always been at the core of how I approach my professional career and it is also how we do business at CNUC. I spend a good deal of my “outside of work” time reading and learning about skepticism and critical thinking. Probably sounds boring, but I can guarantee it is not.
My other personal interest that influences my professional career is a passion that is also shared by my wife. I believe — by using science, logic, and reason — that I actually have the brightest, best looking, most gifted 6-year-old granddaughter in North America. Molly is an influence that I plan on enjoying and learning from for many years to come. OK, maybe it isn’t a scientific fact just yet, but I am exercising every grandparent’s prerogative here.
Green Media: What dreams or aspirations do you have for both yourself and the industry? What is necessary to make those goals a reality?
Cieslewicz: I dream of a day when laypeople and professionals alike are embarrassed at the thought of planting a big tree under or near an energized power line. I have debated this issue with many folks in and outside of our industry and have not once heard a good reason for doing it. I guess I am particularly obsessed with stopping this bad practice having spent much of my career in a courtroom or in front of regulators and lawmakers explaining how the resulting accidents could have been avoided.
In order to achieve that objective, I imagine a great deal of further education will be necessary. As a society, we are wasting billions of dollars annually, enduring extended power outages, and putting our lives and property at risk as a result of a simple bad planting choice.
Green Media: What advice do you have for other industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves?
Cieslewicz: I am betting the other seven honorees will say something similar: love what you do; don’t be afraid to stick your neck out occasionally; do your research; understand the big picture; seek the truth; and, above all, surround yourself with people who are better than you. It is a continuous process, and it has worked for me and many who have influenced me.
Green Media: If you could nominate another person as the green industry’s most influential, who would that be, and why?
Cieslewicz: As mentioned, I have had the great pleasure of working with countless gifted and inspirational people in this industry — most of whom probably deserve this honor more than me. With that in mind — and while this may sound a bit biased — I would probably first nominate my Operations VP, Derek Vannice, and my Senior Consultant, Will Porter.
Derek, who is very well known in our industry, has spent a good portion of his career developing the ISA certifications around the globe. In his past capacity as executive director of the UAA, he has been directly involved in many initiatives that have led to dramatic progress in our industry. Derek has also spent time in Washington, D.C., and, most recently, testified in front of FERC in support of industry best practices. He has demonstrated tangible and effective influence in our industry.
Will Porter may not be as well known as Derek (here in the States at least) but has established himself as one of the very few fact-based experts on UVM. As a result of his careful ongoing benchmarking analysis of UVM operations and practices here and abroad, Will has influenced how we all do the work we do. I expect that this influence will grow as he continues to publish and present his trademark analytical work.
As Director of Government Affairs for the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), Tom Delaney reviews any bill that might impact the landscape industry. If it will have an effect on the industry, he works with state groups to deal with it.
“While we can’t always be out there, we can alert people and train them to be out there, and then connect them with other groups that can help,” he said.
Originally from New York, Delaney majored in Agriculture at the University of Georgia. He went on to work for the Georgia Department of Agriculture for 15 years in the entomology and pesticide division, and was in charge of pesticide enforcement, certification, and training. In 1989, Delaney took a job with the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) handling state government affairs. It wasn’t long after Delaney started with PLCAA that Senator Harry Reid (D – Nev.) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I – Conn.) called for Senate subcommittee hearings on lawn care.
“So there I found myself, less than a year after having left the state, sitting in a Senate hearing room, testifying in front of Senators Reid and Lieberman,” said Delaney. “I ended up dealing with the GAO [Government Accountability Office] report on lawn care, advertising, and things like that. I followed up the next year with another hearing. I had to use my connections with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to start working with them and the Federal Trade Commission on advertising guidelines for the industry.”
Delaney served as executive of PLCAA for almost five years, but went back to the government affairs role that last year before PLCAA merged with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) to form PLANET.
Delaney was instrumental in negotiations regarding the H-2B worker program — he suggested that returning immigrant workers not count against the H-2B cap. It was a way of not increasing the cap, but still increasing the number of workers landscape companies were allowed.
The WaterSense 40-percent managed turf limit is yet another issue with which Delaney has been faced. Delaney and PLANET gathered people to invest in hiring a specialist to evaluate what EPA was doing and put on a formal program for EPA about the WaterSense proposal, why it wouldn’t work and why it isn’t a good idea.
In November 2011, PLANET marked a victory in this area when the EPA issued a Notice of Intent to remove the 40-percent turfgrass restriction from the WaterSense program’s landscape specifications. The same requirement was removed from the International Green Construction Code by a 2/3 vote of the International Code Council. Going forward, the only requirement for EPA WaterSense-labeled landscapes will be adherence to the EPA’s water budget tool.
When Delaney testified before Congress in 1990, that was PLCAA’s first Day on the Hill. “Every single year since then, we’ve had a Day on the Hill,” he said. “Starting that, and having it continue through the years, formed what I call a ‘green army.’ We have so many new people who come every year, and we try to encourage people to come back and participate on these issues.’
Delaney has been involved with Project Evergreen from the beginning, and then with RISE [Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment], and now the GreenScapes Business Alliance.
“We also started the first PAC [Political Action Committee], where we were able to gather money to give toward elections,” he said. “So we have become relevant as a Green Industry group. People know us more from all our Days on the Hill, from our PAC, and everything else, so we’re viewed more as a professional group.”
He continues to try to motivate people to become more involved in the process, and share their experience. “If everyone had to do everything based on doing it for the first time themselves, we would be in a big mess,” he said. “The more open we can be, and help other people, we’re going to help ourselves, and be somebody of influence. By opening up and being a member of a national association and going to meetings, the more you are able to be influential.”
Dan Ariens, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ariens, joined the company in 1983 and became president and CEO in 1998. Since that time, Dan’s leadership has been defined by a set of five core values and 15 management principles that clearly outline management expectations. His core values are simple and unwavering: Be Fair, Be Honest, Respect the Individual, Keep our Commitments, and Encourage Intellectual Curiosity. He lead by example modeling this philosophy to his/his company interaction with the entire outdoor power equipment (OPE) supply chain, extending this approach to his interaction with suppliers, peer partners, employees, dealers and contractors.
Dan was one of the first in the OPE industry to explore Lean manufacturing as a way to guarantee future success in a global economy in 1998. Now, a strong proponent of Lean manufacturing principles, he has created a culture of continuous improvement that has resulted in the creation of world-class manufacturing facilities by Lean standards. He was personally recognized in 2007 with the Eli Whitney Productivity Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and is frequently tapped as a mentor by organizations promoting Lean leadership.
Dan is also an active participant in industry issues, having served on the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) board of directors since 2000, including a term as board chairman.
He has also worked effortlessly in support of GIE-EXPO, serving two separate terms as committee chair for that event. A strong advocate of the Green Industry, Dan also sponsors several opportunities for industry members to be recognized or receive development education.
Dan is frequently tapped for his business perspective on state issues. He has received two gubernatorial appointments from separate Wisconsin Governors each representing both parties. He previously served on the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force and currently serves as the Vice