President's Perspective - Spring 2021

By Jimi Scheid on Friday, April 2, 2021

WCISA President’s Message – The Road Ahead is Tree-Lined

"…Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?"

-Jack Kerouac, from On The Road

How glad are you to be alive these days? We are a year into the pandemic and life rolls on, for what it’s worth. That worth may very well be in the eye of the beholder: “one man’s trash” as they say. It would be far too easy to sit here and rant in great detail about the impact of the last twelve months, both in our personal lives and in Western Chapter activity. But, challenges as there have been, I am uplifted by the gains our organization has made during this time and the prospects that lie ahead. These focus areas relate directly to some of my other Presidential Goals, which are to revise and implement the goals of our strategic plan, to revisit and revise outdated policies, procedures and by-laws, and to focus on Executive Committee leadership, training and succession planning.

The Chapter’s strategic plan has been considerably overhauled, with the Executive Committee collaborating this past year with Kevin Martlage, to revise the version we had been operating under. With a streamlined set of goals captured under four revised categories (Leadership, Membership, Professional Development, and Marketing & Public Relations), and a group of enthusiastic board and committee members to implement it, I am excited to see our organization realize its fullest potential in the months and years ahead.

During what many might consider a relative period of inactivity, I want to emphasize just how engaged and busy the Executive Committee has been. Our organization has operated under a set of governing by-laws as well as less rigid, but still important, policies and procedures. Given the requirement of the former and the utility of the latter, it is key that we work within their direction and, as agreed upon, strive to update this language where appropriate to meet the current needs of the organization. While organizational goals are always moving targets, we have made time to take a more methodical and inclusive approach. I do not believe our organization has ever taken a more holistic review of our policies as we have in recent months. With the assistance of the individual committees, the Executive Committee hopes to have finalized updates to the by-laws slated for a vote by the membership next year, meeting another goal of mine.

In addition to suggesting changes to Chapter governance, we are also in the process of better streamlining the activities of the individual committees that, in many ways, are the engine of the organization. Did you realize that we have, at any given time, 24-25 active committees (including ad-hocs) working to advance important causes within our ranks? Given the half dozen or so individuals that typically serve on each committee, we are blessed to have such a wealth of caring, committed volunteers stepping up and taking responsibility. We are developing a more cohesive structure to ensure these committees are meeting the needs of the Chapter, while still allowing for flexibility within each unique collective.

When it comes to creating strong leaders amongst our volunteers, I’ve taken a more holistic view at what that means. Are we here to merely fill a particular role on the Board? Are we involved to push a specific campaign or fill a niche to aid the Chapter? Is our time served in such an endeavor compulsory, as we attempt to leave some sort of mark on an organization we care for? Or are we also looking to improve ourselves through the process? What do we look to come away with, besides a position title and something for our resumés? My hope is that each officer or committee chair grows into a more competent professional, regardless the position filled, or the timeframe involved. By the time individuals move on from the Board, I would like to think that they gave of themselves to the WCISA and that the WCISA gave something to them in return. In that vein, our quarterly meetings have been transformed to allow for discussion of more overarching topics (not necessarily related to arboriculture), to engage members in big picture visions that will ideally translate into better performance on and off the Board. Rose Epperson, to her superb credit, has not only been receptive to my vision, but has been a great facilitator (as she is with so many things). Our Executive Director took the raw ideas and translated these both into more productive meeting agendas, and a nearly completed Board Manual with tools and documents to assist incoming leaders in fulfilling their roles. This has been supplemented by a robust collection of training, networking, and meeting opportunities to further develop leadership skills. I feel heartened to know that those assuming a volunteer position with the Chapter are not just seeing a vacant job filled, but having a career fulfilled.

One of my last goals as your President was to support underserved and geographically-remote sectors of our membership. As someone who resides in a fairly isolated location, I fully understand that other members can also be isolated and can have difficulty in having their voices heard. There needs to be a way to bring representatives of disenfranchised populations into our discussions (and possibly leadership roles) so their needs can be addressed. How can we work to support their identities, practices, ideas, challenges, and constraints? Our Chapter includes a broad expanse of physical territory as well as a diverse, growing membership, and it can be quite challenging to adapt to an ever-changing industry. Luckily, there are many talented efforts taking place to meet those challenges. Whether it’s our Spanish Committee, Women in Arboriculture Committee, diverse Board representation from four states, credentialing programs, virtual workshops or our committed consideration of your feedback and survey responses, I feel like the Chapter has made great strides in progressive leadership. But I remain with ears wide open all the same.

This brings me to my final point, which is that the 87th Annual WCISA Conference & Trade Show is coming up June 7-10. It was my original dream to bring opportunity to underserved areas by having a grand showing in the remote, northwest corner of our Chapter in Humboldt County, CA. Building on the energy of a few smaller regional events in the area, I had long envisioned bringing top notch education to our members on the Lost Coast, while sharing this special place with so many of you that reside elsewhere. While we all look forward to in-person gatherings again, the Conference Committee had to work within the confines of what is known and what could work for the purposes of planning and serving our membership. That, of course, meant going virtual with this year’s event again. Leveraging lessons learned from the inaugural run made at November’s soiree, and recognizing the challenge of attracting an audience to yet another online learning session, I think this year’s offering will be a can’t-miss event.

Some of the intricate details are still being ironed out, but the dedicated conference team, led by chair and planning guru extraordinaire Kelaine Ravdin, are working hard to make this a “far out” affair for the ages. With an eclectic cast of speakers and topics typically not featured at industry gatherings, and an emphasis on nature-based, on-site talks and demonstrations across disciplines, I truly feel that the annual conference is going to bring remote learning to a whole new level. From presentations on large trees, explosive removals, urban wood, cutting edge designs, and high-level research, to practical climbing and diagnostic skills, engaging multi-speaker panels and lively discussions, there will be something worth every attendee’s time and money. And that’s not even mentioning the exhibitors, educators, and entertainment avenues being explored! From below the roots to the far reaches of the canopy, (almost) nothing is off limits at this year’s annual conference! I’m excited to share this with you.

Though heartache has sometimes hung heavy on our recent history, it is hope that unmistakably holds healthily on the horizon: it’s a matter of perspective. And while the mid-20th century was a different time and scene, I believe the Beats left a mark that still applies to today’s challenges. Author Jack Kerouac had a way with words that to me remains timeless: “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars”. The way I see it, there are far fewer dead-end roads to make this journey of ours than there are tree-lined streets. 


For the Trees,

Jimi Scheid, WCISA President