PGMS Announces 4 New CGMs!

The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) has announced four newly designated CGMs; CGM #161 Andrew Moran, CGM of Venetia, Pa., CGM #162 Claudia Kent, CGM of Haverford, Pa., CGM #163 Joe Kovolyan, CGM of Tacoma, Wa., and CGM #164 Randy Haffling, CGM of Bethlehem, Pa. Read on to learn more about these determined Grounds Managers in their exclusive interviews below.

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ClaudiaCGM #162 Claudia Kent
of Haverford, Pa.

PGMS: What first inspired your love of the outdoors?
Claudia Kent: I’ve always loved the outdoors. As a kid in England we lived near a dairy farm and we were always out roaming the fields, climbing trees and generally getting very dirty.

PGMS: What particular area of grounds management do you find the most fascinating and why?
Kent: Turf! As a horticulturist, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but now that I work with it on a daily basis I love the challenges. That came as quite a surprise to me. Of course, trees and shrubs are up there too.

PGMS: How did you find out about PGMS? How has it benefited you as a Grounds Keeper?
Kent: Kevin O’Donnell, my boss at Villanova University, has always been very involved in PGMS. He always praised the benefits of PGMS networking and programs.

PGMS: What is your most memorable moment from your career as a Grounds Keeper?
Kent: I remember my first day as a Grounds Keeper at Villanova University. I was really worried that I wouldn’t enjoy being outside all the time. It can be very different being outside for recreation versus required to being outside for a job.  By the end of the week I knew it was for me.

PGMS: What are you passionate about outside of the workplace?
Kent: Backpacking and camping. I have a bucket list to visit the “Big 59 national parks.” I’ve currently done a little over half, averaging about 3 a year.

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joe picCGM #163 Joe Kovoylan, of Tacoma, Wa.

PGMS: What first inspired your love of the outdoors?
Joe Kovolyan: My Family’s roots are in farming in Ohio. Also, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and uncle being outside watching and helping plant, grow and harvesting crops.  The entire process always fascinated me plus being out on the equipment was always fun.

PGMS: How did you find out about PGMS? How has it benefited you as a Grounds Keeper?
Kovolyan: I completed an online course back in 2004 that PGMS used to offer and really enjoyed it. Shortly after I changed jobs and went on to earn my Certified Arborist and Certified Sports Turf Manager through ISA and STMA as at the time seemed to fit my job responsibility’s better. It wasn’t until three years ago that I reconnected with members of PGMS  at a conference held in Portland OR . Being part of PGMS I think encourages continued learning,  provides information or constructive feedback  on issues, products and ideas while connecting you with fellow minded individuals that with their professionalism  and dedication  makes you strive to  be a better Grounds keeper.

PGMS: How long have you been in the field of Grounds Management? What is the best advice you could give someone who is just starting out?
Kovolyan: I have been in grounds management for about 15 years but I’ve been in the green industry since 1988. I worked with lawn care, landscape construction, greenhouse, retail nursery/ garden center, athletic field maintenance and renovations and that is what my advice would be: when you first start out don’t be afraid to try anything and  learn something from everybody and every experience. As a grounds manager of a University, City, Town, Resort whatever you will either do or supervise so many of those things so if you don’t have any idea or experience you will not be as effective.

PGMS: What advice would you give someone who is considering earning their CGM?
Kovolyan: I found for me that If I became frustrated or stuck on a section Id move on to another section that came easier than double back. If I didn’t the entire process would bog down. The other thing is look at other departments as you gather the information together. It may be they have already documented something you need instead of starting from scratch. Last is use your mentor, I should have more.

PGMS: Where do you find your on-the-job inspiration? Mentors? Blogs? Books? Bottom of the coffee cup?
Kovolyan: The reaction you see from the Parents and perspective students when they first walk on campus. I’ll always stop and ask if they need help as they are standing at a information kiosk or offer to take a group  picture when they are posing there student in front of a sign or building. They don’t know who I am and they will just go on about the beautiful campus or how great the fields looks. Being a urban campus we also have our “regulars” that walk through daily and they are always  making remarks or giving compliments to my crew.  That’s what gets you through those “groundhog” repetitive days and I would say talking with and seeing what fellow PGMS members are doing for those burst of inspiration or friendly competitiveness.

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randy haffling2CGM #164 Randy Haffling,
of Bethlehem, Pa.

PGMS: What first inspired my love of the outdoors?
Randy Haffling: Playing outside with my friends when I was growing up. I lived in a relative rural area of New Jersey and enjoyed and made the most of surrounding countryside and what it had to offer. We’d go fishing, make bike trails and play army games in the woods.

PGMS: What particular area of grounds management do I find the most fascinating and why?
Haffling: I enjoy hearing the reactions from the work that my staff and I do at Moravian. When they plant 1000 or more bulbs in an area, people don’t take notice as to what the staff is doing. But in the spring when 1000 tulips with a display of vibrant color appear, people take notice. In the 6+ years that I have been here, we have planted more than 30,000 bulbs and now we make it our mission to continue the wow effect.

PGMS: How did I find out about PGMS? How has it benefitted me as a Grounds Manager?
Haffling: I found out about PGMS through Ed Harman. I was at a Keystone Athletic Field Managers Organization (KAFMO) Field Day in 2010 and met Ed through a fellow Grounds Manager. I mentioned to Ed that I like to visit several college campuses a year and network with the Grounds Managers. Ed shared with me all the benefits of joining PGMS and I was hooked. I often say that in the landscaping industry there are so many great organizations to join; it can make a person’s head spin. I have been a member of many of them. In the position I am in now I have found that STMA is great on the athletic field maintenance side and PGMS covers everything else. PGMS definitely is a resource to help me maintain our athletic fields but it offers so much more. I like that many of members are Grounds Managers of college campuses. What I have found is that it doesn’t matter if you maintain a vast university campus with an enormous budget or a small private academy with tiny budget; we can always find common ground. Everyone has their challenges, we are all fighting the good fight and we can all learn something new from others.

PGMS: How long have I been in the field of Grounds Management? What is the best advice I could give someone who is just starting out?
Haffling: Officially 30 years, unofficially 36 years. This past summer I visited Chip and Sharon whom I began mowing for when I was 12 years old and I hadn’t seen in many years.   Chip worked on a golf course in his twenties and was very particular about how he wanted his lawn cut; in fact I was only allowed to mow the back yard, not the front. If I was going to keep the job I had better pay attention to the details. I pressed upon myself to scour the lawn to make sure it looked the best possible before I left. In the heat of the summer I hated the pressure I was putting on myself but I felt that all of this extra effort would mean something in the future. I figured if I started with high standard of quality from the beginning, then in the future I could look back and be proud that I didn’t slack and take the easy way.

I shared with them that I am now responsible for the grounds at Moravian College and I thank Chip and Sharon for giving me the chance to mow their lawn. I think because of that experience it set me on the path to where I am today.  The best advice I can give someone starting out is to find your passion. If you are passionate about what you do, you will excel. This is the most rewarding job I have had and I wish I had started here twenty years ago so that I could experience even more time here at Moravian College. And though I say that, I also know that all of my previous experiences at my other jobs helped me to become better prepared for the requirements of my position at Moravian. Those experiences also helped me to appreciate the gift I have been given to be here.

PGMS: What is a lesson from the field that I had to learn the hard way? How have I changed my processes since this lessen?
Haffling: I had on a couple of occasions when I was working for design build companies that I had not planned properly how to execute the landscape installation. Although everything worked out with the installations, it made me realize the importance of planning properly. It’s like the saying in carpentry, measure twice, cut once. The more you think through how to implement your work, the greater success you will have at completing it and reduce the risk of problems.

PGMS: What advice I would give someone who is considering earning their CGM?
Haffling: Document as much information about what you do. Take a lot of pictures, record information, define or maintain processes and procedures. The more history (information) the more it will provide you with a valuable resource to use and pass to next person to do their work with more success. Moravian College began in 1742 and since then someone was responsible for grounds in one shape or form. I am just one person in a long, long line of people that have been given this great opportunity and I hope there will many, many more people after me. My duty from day one has been to collect as much information about my time here so that I can leave it for those after me. My time here is just one chapter in the long story of Moravian College.

PGMS: What did I learn from being a part of the CGM process?
Haffling: I stress the importance of taking pictures and documenting information, however through the CGM process I learned just how much I overlooked. The CGM process has pushed me to make an even greater effort to document what I doing and to evaluate the processes and procedures we have to make sure they are working.

PGMS: What is my most memorable moment from my career as a Grounds Manager?
Haffling: When we did our first tree inventory. It took a great deal of patience and persistence but when we had our first inventory it was worth all the time and energy to get to that moment. We have been inventorying areas of trees on campus for three years now. In fall semester during the lecture period of the ecology class representatives of the company that helps us inventory the trees do a power point presentation of inventorying process and during the class lab the representatives work with the class to inventory some of the trees. I stand back and take it all in. I see the students learning something most never get to experience and having fun doing it. They are always engaged. Each year at the end of the lab I ask one question, “Should we do this again with next year’s class?” I have been getting the same answer each time, a resounding “Yes!”

PGMS: Where do I find my on-the-job inspiration?
Haffling: Our students. I am very fortunate to work with several professors from across a variety of disciplines. When I can share how we go about maintaining the campus landscape and how the underlining theme is to look at the landscape through sustainability based lens. Our students understand that everything that we do and how we do it has a purpose behind it. Our campus is our student’s outdoor lab. They understand the importance of respecting our natural environment and techniques required to maintain it are being applied outside their classrooms. This is what my staff and I strive to do every day.

PGMS: What areas of Grounds Management would I be interested in learning more about?
Haffling: I would like to have a greater understanding of the strides that are being made in organics, such as organic fungicides.

PGMS: Do you have any special projects or processes you are working on/developing/have created?
Haffling: Besides the tree inventory, I in the process of submitting for Moravian College to become a Tree Campus USA. I am also working with a professor and students on a four phase installation of a rain garden over four years. The intention from conception has been that some students could be a part of the project each year that they are attending Moravian. The rain garden has monitoring equipment and the space will be used for research well into the future.

PGMS: What am I passionate about outside of the workplace?
Haffling: Well I four children, so spending as much time with them is very important to me. I am also very passionate about saving the history of where I grew up. I grew up in small town that is comprised of many Victorian homes from the mid-1800. I have used my education in historic preservation to either save or at least document the community history for future generations to learn about.

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