Dennis, welcome to the UAA. You join the organization following the decade long tenure of Executive Director Phil Charlton, who announced his planned retirement earlier this year. What is your strategy to make this a smooth transition of leadership?
I intend to spend time listening, learning and leaning on the wisdom of the UAA staffers as well as board members that have been successfully supporting Phil over the years. Phil and I have already met several times and we plan to meet as needed to ensure a seamless transition. The UAA board, committee chairs and the membership opinion leaders will also be valuable assets throughout the transition and likely beyond.
What experiences from your professional background have prepared you well for the executive director role?
I am fortunate to have managed a comprehensive utility vegetation management (UVM) program across a large geographic area. In order to pull that off, you need a network and trusted partners. I have that skill set because of my experiences, so it will be useful in advancing UAA’s mission and vision. I successfully implemented integrated vegetation management (IVM) strategies that were socially, financially and environmentally responsible. This background aligns well with some of our core UAA values.
What was it that drew you to this career opportunity?
I am passionate about utility arborist awareness, safety and professional development. Being able to put my thoughts into action and advance our talented membership is unique and attractive to me. I am excited about where our industry and organization are right now, and the possibilities that come our way. It’s incredibly humbling to be offered the chance to bring positive awareness to the industry and build upon all the hard work that brought the UAA to where it is today.
We hear that you got your start in utility arboriculture by chance. Is that true?
That’s right. I was looking for a summer internship while working on my undergraduate degree and landed a job as a contracted utility forester. That summer job later became a part-time job, and as I finished my degree, I then went full-time. After a couple of years contracting for the utility, I was hired on as a forester. I spent the next twenty-four years learning and growing in the industry.
What has utility arboriculture done well over the years?
Integrating safety and IVM into everyday practices are both worth recognizing. It’s crucial for the industry to be mindful of how to spend valuable resources to achieve predefined goals along with monitoring the outcomes. Applying data driven IVM programs consistently has been vital to my past success. I honed many of the skills in these areas by attending conferences, workshops, networking, summits and reading industry publications that were steeped with UAA involvement or support.
What do you think are the major issues or challenges the industry should address in the short term?
I would say industry awareness is one of our challenges. If we can make more people aware of the career opportunities available, I think we could attract a more diverse workforce. Helping people understand the complexity and skill that go into this job could help us safeguard budgets and pay scales more competitively. We need more people to understand the power of investing in land management strategies that bolster safety, system reliability and environmental sustainability, so we can spend less time on debate and more time planning. With more consistent access to development, accreditation, certification and educational opportunities, I believe that we can develop and advance our peers more efficiently.
Watch for Part II of our conversation with Dennis Fallon when we explore how he believes the UAA can expand its industry leadership role across the U.S. and what he sees as the greatest value of UAA membership.