Most Influential People in the Green Industry

Green Media, a division of M2MEDIA360 — publisher of Landscape and Irrigation, Arbor Age, 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.”

Tom Delaney

 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.

“Being a one-person department in one association group, there are not a lot of things we can do all by ourselves — they all have to be done with partners,” he said. “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.”

Industry watchdog

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. Delaney later decided that he was more interested in lawn care than he was in agriculture, partly because the area he worked — Atlanta — was more ornamental and turf than it was agricultural. As a result, in 1989, he 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 and Senator Joseph Lieberman 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’s next challenge was dealing with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA). At the time, PLCAA was paid by ALCA to handle government affairs for them, so Delaney had to learn about the H-2B program.

“I thought pesticides, fertilizers and environmental issues were the worst things to deal with, and then here came immigration and H-2B issues,” he said.

Delaney served as executive of PLCAA for almost five years, but went back to the government affairs role the last year before PLCAA merged with ALCA to form the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

“In merging, I had to learn about the issues of the landscape industry versus the chemical lawn care industry, and it was a lot more of the business issues, OSHA issues, safety, and dealing with H-2B,” said Delaney. “The biggest issue with H-2B was trying to get more workers, because the cap kept being reached.”

Since the cap was not going to be raised, Delaney suggested that they not count returning workers.


“That resonated with them,” he said. “Here was a way of not increasing the cap, but still increasing the number of workers you have by not counting returning workers. It ended up being what we got for a few years. When the economic problems hit, less people were using the program, so the cap wasn’t being reached, and that wasn’t the issue anymore.”

The next challenge was being forced to sue the Department of Labor (DOL) because of new regulations the DOL enacted that would affect wages of H-2B workers, and thus affect the salaries of U.S. workers.

Juggling act

The WaterSense 40-percent managed turf limit is yet another issue with which Delaney has been faced. The EPA WaterSense program started off as an equipment issue, then it led to the certification of the people handling the equipment.

“Then, all of a sudden, we had EPA saying they were going to certify a house as being a ‘WaterSense’ house in the pilot program,” said Delaney. “While its main thing is dealing with the plumbing on the inside, it carried over to irrigation equipment being used on the outside.”

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 wouldn’t be a good idea.

“Then we started getting Congress involved,” he said. “What EPA said every time was, ‘It’s just a voluntary program — they don’t have to do it.’ Until they went ahead at one of the International Code Council meetings and suggested that it be put in code — in which case it would no longer be a voluntary program, but mandatory, if local governments accepted that in the code. And then they didn’t even include the water budget — just the turf reduction — so people didn’t even have a choice.”

In November 2011, PLANET and other active groups 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.

“I’m glad that after a three-year effort, Green Industry professionals and the EPA were able to come to an agreement,” Delaney stated following the announcement. “The EPA’s water budget tool continues to be an issue. PLANET will work with other industry groups to help in the ongoing development of water use tools and guides for lawn care and landscape professionals.”

Keeping track of challenges like these are all part of the juggling act Delaney must perform on a daily basis. “In one day, I could be dealing with five different things,” he said. “It’s all part of the Green Industry, but the Green Industry is so diverse. Just look at PLANET’s membership — chemical lawn care, design/build, maintenance, interiorscapes, tree care, and irrigation. We’ve become a pretty diverse group.

“Just the other day, I was thinking about the typical businessman who has to deal with all of these things — all of the regulations and environmental issues,” Delaney added. “Every time they turn around, there is something more they have to do or add to stay in business. With all of the regulations people have to deal with to stay in business — disability, lawsuits, changes in administration — it’s a wonder that people still want to get into business and stay in business. That is why I always admire our members.”

Motivating others

When Delaney testified before Congress in 1990, that was PLCAA’s first Legislative 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.

“It’s trying to encourage people to be active and be involved,” said Delaney. “One person may make a difference. But one person impacting another person can make a difference as well.”

Delaney relayed how, while on his first job after graduation, working for the University of Georgia Experiment Station, he was doing some field work and had to visit a man who was really rude and nasty to him. Delaney didn’t want to go back to deal with him, but later found out that the man had died due to a brain tumor.

“I realized that you never know what is going on in people’s lives or in their minds,” said Delaney. “Try to give more people the benefit of the doubt, and understand why they might not do something, or why they act the way they do. Don’t write them off so quickly. We all affect everyone that we come into contact with day to day. Take the time to relate more to the person, and know that what you are doing or saying affects them. I want to get less people to be apathetic, and get more people to be involved so that they can make a difference. I’m trying to educate people as to why they should be involved, and how they can get involved. I’m trying to motivate.”

Delaney said he learned from his former boss at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Ron Conley, to take a little bit from everybody he comes into contact with. “Everybody has some key qualities, so you end up trying to put together a good combination of qualities that you seen in other successful people,” said Delaney. “Pay attention to those people who are influential and successful and watch them. Some people don’t take enough time to watch, pay attention, and see what people are doing.”

He also urges others to 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.”

Lynda Wightman

 Lynda Wightman, industry relations manager at Hunter Industries, is one of the most trusted and influential leaders in the Green Industry. Her nomination read, in part, “Lynda is very deserving of this distinction. She has served on numerous turf and irrigation boards. She devotes countless hours towards training and educating the turf professionals of the future.”

Green Media: You were nominated by your peers as one of the most influential people in the Green Industry. How do you feel you that you influence other industry professionals?

Wightman: I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition. I have never really thought of myself as an “influencer,” but have always strived to help others make good decisions and feel good about their failures and accomplishments. A favorite quote of mine is by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I try to remind myself of this on a daily basis.

Green Media: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the Green Industry so far? And what do you see as your role in the future of the industry?

Wightman: By working for such a fantastic company, Hunter Industries, I have been able to develop a network of friends who reach out to me for education, training, industry knowledge and reliable collaboration. Water conservation/management (irrigation) is such an important topic, and it’s not going away. So we have to learn every technique, program and process occurring today and in the future in order to be stewards of this valuable resource. I hope to continue representing Hunter, and our industry, in every effort to support our entire customer base in any way possible; especially when it comes to efficient and knowledgeable irrigation practices.

Green Media: Who has influenced you both personally and professionally?

Wightman: My mother, of course. She taught me to believe in myself and to always give to others no matter what the situation might be. Chuck Huston hired me 27 years ago to work for Hunter, and was my mentor for many years to follow. Even after he retired, he gave me advice and helped me develop my personal and professional skills. Richard Hunter has allowed me to work with great people, make mistakes and learn from them, mentor others in our company, and be a part of the most fantastic team in the world.

Green Media: Tell us something about yourself outside of work that influences your approach in your professional career.

Wightman: Ha! Anyone who knows me, would say that I don’t have much of a life outside of irrigation and Hunter, but I am a very lucky woman to live in Missoula, Montana (eat your heart out) and be close to family. I love to fly fish, garden, preserve and cook the goods I grow, and share everything with everybody I can. I invite industry friends to join me in the relaxation of being on the water, tossing a line, and not talking about sprinklers, water conservation and jobs. By doing this, we all go away with a refreshed mind and soul, ready to tackle our daily challenges once again.

Green Media: What dreams do you have for the industry? What changes are necessary to make those dreams a reality?

Wightman: I realize that many things are changing, especially with the way we do business, but we have to remember the importance of relationships and partnerships with the people we work with. At Hunter, our mission and values are based upon customer satisfaction, innovation, family and citizenship (communities, sustainability and environmental footprint).

I would like to think that other companies would look to model their own core values along these same lines for the betterment of their employees and customers.

Green Media: What advice do you have for Green Industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves?

Wightman: Strive for the best in all that is tried. Don’t be afraid to fail; get up and try it again until it is right. Share your failures and successes with others — maybe they are in the same shoes as you. Be happy with yourself and your job; if you’re not, then find out why and try to make the appropriate changes. Another quote that I like is anonymous, “The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes their way.”

Mark Chisholm

 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.

Chisholm — a third-generation arborist with the Aspen Tree Expert Company, Inc., Jackson, N.J. — grew up in the industry.

“I went to trade shows and got super-excited by listening to other people speak, and learning new tricks,” he 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 Chisholm, 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.

“As far as work goes, first and foremost, I’m an arborist and a tree climber,” he 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 Chisholm is “champion.” As a three-time International Tree Climbing Champion (1997, 2001 and 2010), the competition has had a profound influence on his 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.”

Chisholm’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 Chisholm, being a spokesman allows him to travel to industry events, reach more people, and raise awareness for proper tree care and professionalism.

In addition to influencing other industry professionals — and students — through his speaking engagements, his lectures and his role as a spokesman, Chisholm has a daily influence on others via his industry website,

As the Internet gained popularity during the mid-to-late 1990s, Chisholm 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, he launched 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).

Although there is nothing definite about his future, or the future of the industry, Chisholm 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.”

Stephen Cieslewicz

 With more than 30 years of industry experience, Stephen Cieslewicz, president and chief consultant of 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.

“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,” said Cieslewicz. “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, Cieslewicz is 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,” he said. “I think I will be spending some of my time trying to resolve this issue in the future.”

David Minner, Ph.D.

 David Minner, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University in Ames. He has consulted on athletic field construction and renovation projects around the world and is one of the most well-known turfgrass experts in the country, having presented at gatherings large and small for many years. Interestingly, his doctorate degree is in philosophy.

Minner’s turfgrass research includes: (1) producing safe, durable and attractive athletic fields; (2) improving the winter survival of golf course grass systems; and (3) developing strategies that maximize turfgrass performance and minimize environmental impact.

Minner’s teaching responsibilities are Sports Turf Management (Hort 453); Turf and Landscape Irrigation (Hort 454); and Pesticide Certification (Hort 283). Minner serves as undergraduate and graduate advisor in Horticulture.

As extension specialist, Minner implements demonstration and educational programs to assist the commercial turfgrass industry of Iowa including golf courses, parks, lawn service companies, athletic fields and roadways. He is the liaison between Iowa State University and the Iowa Turfgrass Association, Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association, Iowa Sports Turf Managers Association, and Iowa Professional Lawn Care Association.

Minner currently serves on the Iowa Turfgrass Institute board of directors and, for the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), is a former board member who now serves on the Information Outreach Committee, the Conference Education Program Committee, and the Certification Committee.

He has been recognized for his service to the industry with the STMA’s Dr. William H. Daniel Founders Award; the Golden Cleat Award, awarded by the Iowa Sports Turf Association for educational programming; the College Football Field of the Year Award, Co-award received with Mike Andresen from the STMA; and the STMA’s Excellence in Research Award.

Dan Ariens

 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 Chair of the Governor’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (a public-private entity replacing the Wisconsin Department of Commerce).

Dan plays other leadership roles in the Wisconsin business community, serving on several boards of directors for educational entities, for-profit companies and non-profit economic development groups in the state, including the NEW North (18-county regional economic development board) and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). He also holds a position on the executive committee of the Green Bay Packers’ board of directors.

Dan is a vocal cheerleader for careers in the OPE industry and for providing opportunities for students to be exposed to these jobs. Under his direction, the Ariens Foundation funded the $1.5 million Ariens Technology and Engineering Education Center at the Brillion (Wis.) high school. This project was the culmination of a three-year plan to revamp the technology education department to create a contemporary curriculum. The 10,000-square-foot center includes a 50-student lecture facility, a large four-plex processing lab (for wood, metal, plastics and composites), and a state-of-the art design room with computers, CNC machines, electronics and robotics equipment. The renovation allows students to work on larger, more complex activities and to work on integrated projects with other disciplines such as mathematics and science. Most significant is the seamless relationship between BHS students/teachers and Ariens employees. There are many joint projects, mentoring, internships, etc. that take place as a regular course of business. Many projects by Brillion students have been incorporated into Ariens products or manufacturing processes. Educators from around the world have visited the site in an effort to replicate some of the tools being used there. In 2008, Dan received the Bert Grover Child Advocacy Award (Dan Ariens) from the Wisconsin Association of School Board Administrators for his efforts to support technology education.

Bill Harley

 Bill Harley, immediate past president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), recently retired after managing the international trade association representing the $15 billion landscape, forestry, utility and lawn and garden equipment manufacturing industry. He guided the organization through some very difficult challenges during the past decade, including emissions, noise abatement and ethanol. Under his leadership, the International Lawn, Garden and Power

Equipment Exposition, in 2007, merged with the Green Industry Expo — the trade show of PLANET (The Professional Landcare Network) and PGMS (Professional Grounds Management Society) — to create the first Green Industry and Equipment EXPO (GIE+EXPO), which is now the nation’s 16th largest trade show.

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