Outlook Winter 2019-20 JUST DO IT!

By Rose Epperson on Monday, December 30, 2019

It’s been about 40 years since I started working in the tree care industry. When I think about, it seems like only yesterday I took a summer job working for my brother’s tree care company. I never imagined that it would ultimately lead to such a rewarding career, one characterized by personal growth, lasting accomplishments, and an invaluable network of associates, cooperators, and contacts.  

I’m proud of the work that the board and I have done to guide the chapter as it has grown, and its needs have changed. The Western Chapter is certainly one of the most influential and progressive tree care organizations around. In addition, I’ve watched as the industry has grown and prospered, while professional tree care practices have steadily improved throughout the entire industry. It’s also noteworthy that certification, credentialing, and qualified status is on the rise. Public awareness with regard to the value of trees, and the importance of professional tree care has grown significantly in recent years. From my perspective, it’s a good time to be an arborist – an even better one to be a Certified Arborist.

 When I think about the path I took to get to where I am today, I have to credit the people along the way who provided guidance, inspiration, support, or just encouragement. The list of people who have contributed or influenced my professional development is long and still growing. The first WCISA annual conference I attended was in Anaheim in 1983. I was fresh out of high school at the time, I remember dancing with Charlie Matthias following the banquet, and working side-by-side with  Bob Berlin and Frenchy Garrigue, all real leaders of their day. I also got to work with some future leaders, like Barry Konier, my brother Pat Mahoney, and many others. I was gob smacked by the experience of working with so many influential people, and knew right then and there that I wanted to be part of it.   

Of all the people I’ve worked with, it was Al Remyn who was most influential. He helped me develop leadership qualities and shape my career goals. I was also very fortunate to have Mel Sease, Frenchy Garrigue, and Bob Berlin and of course Al, to turn to for advice and guidance when needed. They took it upon themselves to help me, and never once treated me dismissively. I was invited to the table, shown the ropes, encouraged, and challenged to do my best every step of the way.  

 I began volunteering with what was then called the “Tree Trimmers Jamboree” (now known as the Tree Climbing Championship). As a result, I engaged with more people, each with different experiences, perspectives, and interests. And in this manner, my network expanded and opportunities arose. It was at these championship events that I met Sharon Lilly, Gordon Mann, Robert Phillips, the entire Abrojena family, and my husband, Al Epperson.  We’ve managed to stay connected to this close knit group of friends, extending from the Hawaiian Islands all the way across the continent.

Over the next decade, I served on and then chaired several committees. This allowed me to develop relationships with people from all over. I remember sitting next Jim Clark and/or Ed Perry to listen to their comments at board meetings I attended. I learned so much from them and had a ball. I really enjoyed the committee work, and we did some really good things.  At the end of the day, I’d often join Ken Meyer and Sam Noonan to talk shop and partake of their ample traveling bar. They always had great snacks and a range of libations.  Later, the full bar was replaced by Bruce Hagen’s wine - we had some great discussions over a crisp Viognier or maybe a smoky Zinfandel. Probably one of my most rewarding projects, was leading the task force to hire an administrator for the chapter. I had no idea at the time that I would later take on that responsibility.  

I served my time on the WCISA board as well, and in 2003, became the chapter’s president. Before me, Denice Britton and Doreen Orist were the only women who had held that office. I followed in their footsteps. Since then, women have taken a much greater leadership role in the chapter. And the number of women involved in arboriculture is increasing.

As you may know, the incoming president selects the venue for the annual conference held during his/her tenure. I remember that my conference was held at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and that Helen Stone and Dennis Swartzell served as conference and program chairs, respectively. Although we started out as colleagues, we’ve become life long friends.     

It has been very helpful for me to serve on committees or boards of other organizations. This has broadened my perspective and given me some useful insights. All of the connections I’ve made over the years and during my fifteen years as Executive Director have enabled me to accomplish more than I thought possible. For me, it has been so rewarding working with enthusiastic and committed volunteers who share my concern for doing more to offset the effects of climate change and the impending environmental collapse. We can help by replanting the trees we’ve lost to insects, disease, and changing environmental conditions, increasing canopy cover by planting even more trees, giving greater consideration to tree selection, particularly drought tolerance, increasing species diversity, emphasizing structural pruning, and providing science-based tree care. My advice to aspiring arborists ? just do it!  Get certified, get involved, make connections, and get going! Before you know it, 40 years will have gone by. The year 2020 marks the start of a new decade, for some it will be a period of learning, professional growth, and opportunities. Don’t get left behind.

I want to thank my administrative team at Epicenter, they represent me and the chapter so well. Their ‘behind the scenes’ efforts keep things working smoothly, and for that, I’m thankful. It’s bittersweet to be wishing Bruce and Linda Hagen a well-deserved retirement from the post they have held for over 20 years. Our chapter magazine, “Western Arborist”, is second to none and it is their passion and professionalism that have made it into a world class publication. Yet again another connection that developed into dear friends. I know we will stay connected well into the future. I’m looking forward to working with our new Editor, Linda Chalker-Scott and seeing where the magazine will go. 

Next year our emphasis will be reaching new heights... literally, as the chapter’s annual conference will be held in the Sierra Mountain community of Olympic Valley near Lake Tahoe, CA (April 27-30). We have a great conference in store for attendees. Give me a call if you want to get involved in helping with the conference.  

Cheers to trees!