November 8, 2022
Joe SalemiThe last time Landscape Ontario welcomed a new executive director was nearly 34 years ago. And to think, Tony took the job on a one-year trial. We are forever grateful for his tremendous dedication and commitment to advancing the landscape trades. Tony leaves a lasting legacy. There’s no doubt he casts a long shadow, and I have heard often he leaves very big shoes to fill. This is true on all accounts. I plan to let my own light shine bright, and let’s be honest: there is nobody on the planet that could fill Tony’s shoes. I’m ready to walk in my own shoes and blaze a path, built on a solid foundation, that we can all be proud of.

I am humbled, as your new executive director, to have the support of the Landscape Ontario board of directors, staff team, and our member community. If you asked me if I could see this happening 20 years ago, I’d probably ask you what an executive director did. Around that time, I was just getting started with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (early 2003) with almost no exposure to the landscape and nursery sectors. My first week with the CNLA was spent feverishly getting up to speed so I could be useful at Landscape Ontario’s Congress trade show the following week. That was my introduction to this amazing community. Nothing like jumping straight in.

When I left the CNLA in late 2012, I promised myself that, should the opportunity arise, I would put my hat in the ring to return to Landscape Ontario in hopes of being Tony’s successor. I held on to that dream for eight years as I moved on and grew as a leader, managing the operations at Dynascape Software. As vice president, I travelled all over the United States, visiting and consulting with hundreds of landscape designers and landscape contractors. I learned a lot about the challenges that landscape businesses face on a daily basis.

Then, during breakfast with Tony prior to the AGM at Congress 2020, my life changed forever. You see, not long before, Tony had offered me a job at Landscape Ontario, and I had told him that when he was ready to retire that I’d be interested. Well, it was during our conversation at breakfast that morning he let me know he was planning his retirement and that he would like me to be part of his succession plan. It was a proud moment, and humbling at the same time. We spent the next month or so working out the details. We planned that I would come in as LO Deputy Executive Director and Director of Operations and start April 1, 2020. We had no idea it would be two weeks after the world was shut down over a pandemic.

My introduction came at LO’s COVID-19 Task Force meeting to discuss how we were going to get everyone back to work. I took the same approach as when I started with the CNLA and jumped right in. I haven’t stopped since. We certainly had a lot of runway to prepare for Tony’s retirement and me coming on board as executive director – two and a half years of runway. In that time, we’ve been through a pandemic, cancelled Canada Blooms and Congress (both twice), and grew our staff team from around 24 to over 40 by securing provincial government grants to advance the landscape trades through recruitment, upskilling, and apprenticeship.

My first month as executive director has been filled with chapter events, conferences, government meetings, announcements, celebrations, calls with members, and more. The welcome I have received has been overwhelming and humbling.

My big kid dream of becoming LO Executive Director has come true. I have made a career of observing the challenges and barriers the landscape trades face on a daily basis. In this role, I have the opportunity to do something about it directly. I can only do it with your help. So many of you face significant challenges when it comes to skilled labour. Let’s work together to develop strategies so we can continue to design, install and maintain Ontario’s landscapes, gardens and living green infrastructure.

We are committed to serving the landscape, nursery, and garden centre community here at Landscape Ontario. It’s through this commitment that we are dedicated to the advancement of the landscape trades. I know you have ideas and solutions and I’d love to hear about them from you. Feel free to reach out to connect with me by email or by phone 905-220-4106. I’m looking forward to connecting with you. I hope to see you at Landscape Ontario Congress, January 10-12, 2023.
Joe Salemi CAE
LO Executive Director