Can you tell us about your childhood influences?
Andy Pleninger: I grew up in a neighborhood in Rochester, NY with mature black oaks and numerous diverse niche ecosystems ideal for play and exploration. Scouting took me to Camp Massaweppie in the Adirondacks, and camping trips with the family were exciting adventures. In the 1970s gypsy moth arrived and gorged on the oaks in my neighborhood. I also watched in awe as a tree surgeon climbed and worked on one of those giant neighborhood oaks. These events and experiences sparked and fostered my interest in the environment.
What has been your educational and career trajectory?
AP: My educational and career trajectories are intertwined. My interests and work and life experiences guided me to my career in urban forestry. Right out of high school I got a job with a tree service and enrolled at the local community college in pre-forestry studies. After my two years of studies I moved to Colorado with the intention of finishing a BS in forestry.
I worked in commercial landscaping and tree work and explored and pursued all the adventures the Rocky Mountains could offer. One of my jobs working as a tree surgeon had me pruning street trees for the City of Fort Collins, where I met the city forester. This was my introduction to urban forestry and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I returned to my studies at Colorado State University and completed a BS concentrating in urban forestry.
A job opportunity at the City of Rochester brought me back to my home town where I was hired as the assistant city forester. After a year I was promoted to city forester and managed the City’s forestry division for ten years. That job was challenging and rewarding; however, after a decade, I wanted a new challenge. So I left the City and started my consulting business, Urban Forestry LLC, in 2000 where I have pursued my career interests since.
Can you tell us some about your business? What are your favorite things you get to do?
AP: The core of my business is providing urban forestry and arboricultural consulting to primarily small municipalities and engineering firms. What I enjoy most is working with a community and helping them meet their urban forest management goals. I also enjoy the interaction and rewards of providing training and education. As an example, with my business partner, Chris Luley, I co-wrote a book called The ABCs of Young and Small Tree Pruning. (You can read an article about the book by Stephanie Radin in this edition of City TREES magazine).
Chris Luley and I recently launched a new business named urforian LLC. The primary product is a web-based tree and shrub inventory management application. It is a simple and intuitive software application designed for the novice computer user in the municipal and green industry service provider markets. It is also different because we sell subscriptions to local consultants to sell to their clients. We believe local consultants can best serve local needs and this provides them with a tool to enhance their services and reduces the costs of the product for the end user. We have plans to expand this business to provide more digital and educational products for the green industry, which is a new and exciting adventure for us.
What has your involvement with NYSUFC been, and what has it meant to you?
AP: Well I’m one of the old folks so I’ve been around since its inception. I cannot take any credit for its formation—that belongs to Nancy Wolf and Nina Bassuk. However, I have served as a board member over the years and contributed as best I could. My most significant and rewarding contribution was serving as president for three years starting in 2003 and ending in 2006. During those years I worked to improve the organization and management of the Council, culminating in publishing the Council’s first management plan. As with my consulting business, the most rewarding aspect was working with a diversity of people and interests with the objective of helping the Council achieve their goals.
When you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what urban forestry is, and you only have about 60 seconds to answer, what do you say?
AP: I ask them if they notice the trees that grace the parks and line the streets of their community or a nearby community and tell them I help communities care for them.
What are your interests in your free time?
AP: I’m a country boy at heart so I spend all of my free time enjoying all the outside activities New York and occasionally more distant destinations have to offer. Whether hiking, playing with my dog, riding my bicycle or motorcycles, or scuba diving, I prefer to look for and experience new adventures.