President's Letter: I am strongly encouraging us to look for solutions in unusual places

May 3, 2019

I cannot believe it is May. It seems like it was just yesterday when we were in Bonita Springs for FNGLA’s Annual Convention and this presidential adventure was just commencing. It has been an eye-opening, philosophical, heart-warming and fulfilling year. It is with mixed emotions I look forward to the “invasion” for FNGLA’s 2019 Convention here in Tampa.

Last week, FNGLA President-Elect Shawn Thomas and I were invited to the inaugural graduation ceremony of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Department of Corrections Horticultural Program. Under the leadership of Corrections Officer Kathleen Howze, the program took two years to develop, design and operationalize.

I, for one, was not sure what to expect nor into what Shawn and Merry Mott (FNGLA’s Director of Industry Certifications & Career Development) had gotten me. But, boy, was I surprised! Seven female candidates earned the FNGLA Certified Horticultural Professional (FCHP) distinction. You would have thought we were in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and they were receiving PhDs from Harvard University!

The sense of pride and accomplishment for earning FNGLA’s certification was so strong. Both moving and a bit sad. We had no idea what brought these ladies to their current life stations, yet it was clear this was one of, if not the only, meritorious experience they had ever experienced. We are touching and helping our society’s most challenged and, Lord willing, upon completion of their debts, they will help our industry! Their class motto was “Sowing seeds, yielding change.”  Give that a moment’s pause and reflection.

Conversely or similarly (depending on your level of cynicism), FNGLA’s officers, CEO Ben Bolusky and lobbyist, Jim Spratt, all depart for Washington D.C. next week. It’s time for FNGLA’s meetings with Florida’s congressional delegation, many of whom are brand-new freshmen members.  I always look forward going to D.C. to represent our industry, yet I do wonder how effective we can be in moving the needle of change in these politically turbulent times. Despite my doubt, we will resolutely relay our industry’s needs and concerns!  So, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ben or me if you have a specific (civilized!) message you wish us to deliver.    

As my presidential tenure draws to an end, I proffer a challenge and thought to our members and upcoming new FNGLA chapter and state leaders. As American businesswoman Barbara Corcoran suggests, “Confidence is overrated.  It is when we are uncomfortable and looking for answers that we learn and grow the most.”  

I am not suggesting a total rejection of comfort and tradition, especially given the path we’re trying to forge with Florida’s newest Members of Congress. Rather, I am strongly encouraging us to look for solutions in unusual places like, perhaps, a correctional facility. 

Continued success and I look forward to seeing you at FNGLA’s Florida Flower Trials this month and FNGLA’s Convention next month.


Will Womack
Southern Gardening Solutions, Tampa



Not an FNGLA Member?