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This year’s Trees & Utilities Conference in Pittsburgh was an opportunity to see what the future holds for the utility industry. And UAA President Brandon Hughson is filled with optimism.

“Our industry continues to expand,” says Hughson. “We’re noticing longtime members mentoring the younger people in the crowd and new emerging technology coming into our industry that brings in a lot of new faces and is leading what we have to offer the next generation.

“With the content offered and the caliber of people who are attending, this is where people want to be. They’re picking up new ideas, learning from one another and expanding our knowledge base. That’s the most exciting aspect of all.”

 Hughson, a manager at Protec Terra, LLC., has 15 years of experience in the Green Industry working with trees. He’s been an active member of the UAA for more than a decade. In 2016, Hughson was named the UAA’s Rising Star. Now he’s leading the UAA as president through August 2024.

“I’m not the first Rising Star to become president,” Hughson quipped, “though it definitely is rewarding and fulfilling to reach this level. It’s also a testament to what the UAA does through fostering and mentoring the membership. It’s how I’ve been able to expand my role in the association. I was always looking for ways where I could help or make a difference and be passionate about it. I’ve learned from mentors who have come before me and helped me become a rising star inside in the industry. What I look to do is the same for others.”

Hughson spoke to many attendees at the T&U conference and discovered the topics that are front of mind for UAA members and industry leaders.

“I heard a lot from utility professionals about how the UAA can help them further promote environmental stewardship and highlight their programs. In addition, there’s a continuous conversation centered on workforce retention. We have a limited number of employees and need to continually attract more and more talented people to our industry.

 “There are some really cool jobs out there in utility arboriculture. How do we continue to engage newer, younger graduates or under graduates in our industry? Involve them as association members right from the start.”

Hughson is also a huge proponent of the online ProUVM Certificate Program through the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Pro-UVM is a series of select development courses focused on higher education and advanced training to help current and future professionals best plan for sustainable utility vegetation management (UVM).

“I would love to facilitate a course someday. When I’m engaged in conversation with folks or someone comes up to me with questions or could be a good candidate for the program, I promote it, especially how to create a great business case to take back to their management team and get them to sign on.”

 As Hughson looks ahead to his term as UAA president, he is eager to be part of a leadership team in pursuit of long-term growth.

“We’re at an exciting time in the UAA. Whether it’s offering top-quality education and events to the membership, we always want to give members what they’re after – to learn and be engaged with one another.