City Trees

January/ February 2014

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 39

Getting to Know Rachel Barker, SMA's New President Rachel, can you tell us about your educational and career trajectories? Rachel Barker: My Bachelor of Science is from Auburn University in Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture and I received my Master of Public Administration from Columbus State University. One thing people might not know about me is that I had my own business in college, "The Plant Leasers." I leased plants to businesses and maintained them. To this day I still have the ficus trees and many other plants that were in some of my accounts. I sold the business after graduation, when I took my first municipal position as the superintendent of groundskeeping/horticulturist at the City of Opelika, Alabama. I was the first to occupy this newly created position. I soon discovered that I would not only be planting and maintaining flower beds, landscapes, and trees, I was also responsible for the right-of-way vegetation management throughout the city. The City of Opelika taught me all about tractors, mowers and other pieces of heavy equipment. I stayed with the City for ten years. My next position was as the City of Columbus, Georgia Division Manager of Forestry as well as the City Arborist. Within a year the forestry division combined with the right-of-way division and I became the manager of the Columbus Urban Forestry and Beautification Division. My history of ROW maintenance that I had acquired in Opelika helped me tremendously with the management of over 80 employees in Columbus and what seemed to me a plethora of heavy equipment which included aerial lifts, speed loaders, dump trucks, and tractors. It was a great experience with great people and the opportunity to grow professionally within an organization I admired. I earned my Masters in Public Administration and was promoted to deputy director of operations for public services. I loved the people and working in a fast-paced environment. Our department oversaw streets, facilities, solid waste collection, recycling, rainwater, special enforcement, and animal control as well as landfills and heavy equipment. Over 400 employees and 300 state inmates worked in this department. I worked for some of the best leaders and learned a lot about motivating team members to do their best for themselves and the organization. I left this position to stay close to home working with my husband in his private forestry consulting business. Natural Resource Consulting has been in business for over 25 years and provides services to private landowners, municipalities, and developers. One of my primary projects during my time at the company was working with Callaway Gardens and Cousin's Properties to preserve trees at Callaway during the development phase of bringing upscale housing into the Gardens. We 26 both brought different areas of expertise to the project from natural resource conservation and individual tree preservation techniques to the "people" component and the ability to educate those on the construction site in such a manner that they could embrace our message of tree preservation. It was a great project, and great to work every day with my best friend! I then worked for the Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission in Montgomery, Alabama. I served as an environmental planner and the regional urban forester for 13 communities in a three-county area, a very rewarding experience. We were successful in receiving a National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council grant while I was at the Commission that addressed vegetation management and emergency management. We developed a GIS tool, the Urban Tree Risk Index (UTRI), and several other documents to assist an urban forester when collaborating with emergency managers. UTRI is an excellent tool; more information can be found on the SMA website under Vegetative Risk Management Planning. What do you do now, and what do you love about it? RB: I am now a Project Manager with ArborMetrics Solutions and manage the Project Management Office (PMO) for our company. We primarily hire consulting foresters and utility arborists for utilities across the United States and in Canada and manage vegetation management programs. Everything we do is challenging the day-to-day operations of vegetation management programs through innovation. We do this by: • hiring quality creative employees and empowering them to create innovative change opportunities, • treating every contract as a project while concentrating on time, cost, and schedule and; • utilizing our trademark software, ArborLine, to manage work packets and quality control as well as other project management tracking tools each created and unique to the individual customer. I love the fast-paced environment and the team we have at ArborMetrics. They have been very welcoming and accepting of my work style and sense of humor! What has your involvement in SMA meant to you? RB: I was originally on the board when the current mission statement was created: "Leading the world in building the confidence, competence, and camaraderie of the family of professionals who create and sustain community forests." It holds true today ... As a young woman beginning my career in the early 90s, finding SMA and this family of professionals helped me to develop over these past 20 years along with, I'm happy to say, a growing number of women. City Trees

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of City Trees - January/ February 2014