How did you get started in grounds management?
I went to Mohawk Valley Community College to study advertising and design. I worked on a golf course while I attended college and loved what I did. After two years of being indoors studying, I knew I wanted to be outside and get my hands dirty. I transferred to the University of Massachusetts at Stockbridge and received a degree from its School of Agriculture for turf grass management. It covered everything from horticulture, soil management, weed management, plant selection, lawn care, and golf turf care.
What drew you to Cazenovia College?
I started here in 2006 after working in the private golf sector since 1991, at Shepard Hills then Belleview Country Club. This was a great opportunity to do something I enjoy and that other people enjoy as well. Golf course work is a grueling profession, but this is rewarding and satisfying. And it’s a very pleasant atmosphere to work in, a fun place to be.
What is your group’s scope of operations?
Grounds is part of Campus Services. We mainly take care of walkways, lawnmowing, raking, patching driveways and parking lots, turf field maintenance, snow removal, maintaining trees, shrubbery, and flower beds and general campus cleanup.
How do you describe your team’s approach to grounds care?
We really enjoy the feel of home that having all the flowers gives to campus. I think it really gives the students, especially, a way to relax. We took on the idea of having an evolving campus. If something doesn’t work, we change it. We work with Residence Life and Admissions regarding campus tours. There’s a lot to a first impression. When it’s pretty on campus, I think that makes a difference. Being a member of Tree Campus International and collaborating with the field botany instructors here and a village group is fun as well.
With all four seasons to enjoy, what is your favorite time of year?
I love Commencement time. We’re really pushing to get everything cleaned up and patched up. It’s one of the prettiest times of year; all the families are on campus and they get to see it.
How do you deal with Central New York’s always-changing weather?
We monitor the weather a lot. Last year, we were plowing and shoveling snow on what should have been Commencement Day. We probably got six to eight measurable snowfalls that April and May. 2019 had a lot of storms; four of us held 4 a.m. group text chats some days to check in to make sure travel would be safe and campus would be ready.
Winter is the biggest challenge, having campus safe for travel and pedestrian traffic. A lot has changed in 16 years. The Village responsibility ended at clearing the village-owned sidewalks around campus, so the rest was up to us. Our crew now plows, sweeps and snow blows sidewalks so ice doesn’t mound up. We also now, shovel and salt entryways, and otherwise get campus ready to open by 8 or 9 a.m. at latest. We want to make sure that it safe for everyone to get where they’re going here.
Our biggest fall challenge is leaf cleanup and using the vacuum mower without disturbing classes, so we do much of the interior campus area on weekends.
Summer is more hard physical grounds work, but it’s kind of a non-stress season. The students aren’t here so we’re just keeping up appearances for conferences.
What is your management philosophy?
My biggest satisfaction is working with very knowledgeable people who learn from each other daily. We have an amazing team…one of the most dedicated and most hardworking staffs I have ever had. They are always contributing ideas, always learning, always pushing to make things better. Aside from me are a horticulturalist, Wendy Goodfellow; an arborist, Tim Milicich; and two general grounds workers, Mickennon Wilson and Eric Hladun. We work hard, we enjoy what we do, and we feel like we’re making a difference.
You’re taking care of campus all week. Do you do the yardwork at home, too?
My wife takes care of our lawn at home; she enjoys doing it. We have a small yard so it’s not overwhelming. We both work in our flower beds and gardens.
What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Our family has been all over the world. We’ve visited Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa, Canada; and Ireland and Scotland for world Irish step dancing competitions for both my son and daughter. I’ve watched both compete at the highest levels, my daughter in Groups and my son in Solos. On one trip to Scotland, I played golf at St. Andrews. I’m a weekend warrior at best; I don’t play enough to be good. But I do love to golf.
How about Irish step dancing. Have you ever tried it?
Definitely not—it’s too far out of my wheelhouse.