April 1 2006 12:00 AM
 John Gibson couldn?t have imagined, when he graduated from high school, that he would have a career in the green industry. ?It was beyond my wildest imagination,? he said. Gibson got into the green industry the way many people do, by meandering into it.

Having earned a football scholarship, Gibson enrolled in the Colorado School of Mines, where he was working toward an electrical engineering degree. He attended for two years, and began looking around for a summer job. He got a job mowing lawns with Colorado Landscape Enterprises, a landscape maintenance company, working for Tom Garber (ALCA president in 1992). He enjoyed working outdoors, and felt good about helping to improve the environment. That was the end of his potential career in engineering.

In 1991, Gibson joined Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care, where he ran their mower maintenance division. That division was closed in 1992, but Swingle had another spot for an energetic young man, and Gibson was moved to the lawn care division. There he became a chemical applicator, applying fertilizers, spraying for weeds and diseases. Eventually, he took over some of the work for the plant health care division. In 1998, he became director of operations for the lawn care and plant health care divisions.

At the time Gibson worked for Garber, he became one of the first four people in Colorado to take and pass the exam for his Certified Landscape Technician - Maintenance (CLT). This experience has stood the test of time and has served him well.

After a few years at Swingle, the green industry got into Gibson?s blood. With the encouragement of Tom Tolkacz, president/owner of Swingle, he began to take a more active role in local associations. He became president of the Colorado Association of Lawn Care Professionals; he also became a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA). At one point, there were nine different associations from the green industry in Colorado (GreenCO), that would meet together to discuss common problems. Gibson got involved and eventually became chairman of the Water Efficient Leaders in Landscape in Colorado.

While Gibson was serving on the board of directors of PLCAA, discussions of merging with ALCA popped up. Gibson was in a good position to see the whole picture. He had an open window to observe the Colorado associations, each with their own set of problems, as well as some background with ALCA. He was able to better understand the needs and wants of the members of these organizations, and contributed to making the merger a reality.

The merged associations became known as the Professional Lawncare Network (PLANET), with Gibson serving as president for 2006. He is the first person from the PLCAA side to assume the top office of the merged association, and his experience makes him well-suited for the position.

No sooner had the merger between ALCA and PLCAA taken place and the new name printed on the letterhead, came the task of implementing the merger and meshing the personnel. Once that was in place, there was talk about a possible merger with the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA).

There is an old adage: if you want something done, ask a busy man. Gibson is no exception. Working a full-time job and raising a family takes most of his time; now add to that the hours spent on association business and you have one busy guy.

But thinking back to his early years, Gibson doesn?t at all regret putting engineering behind him and moving into the green industry, where he has grown and learned so much. However, he realized that it would benefit him to finish the education he began some years before, so Gibson enrolled at the University of Phoenix, where he went to school at night to receive his bachelor?s degree in business management.

On the personal side, the Gibson family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, and consists of John, his wife Kristen, and their two daughters, Taylor, 11, and Marissa, 9.

Gibson loves backpacking and hunting. ?Just going into the wilderness helps me clear my head,? he says. ?Five to seven miles into the wilderness, alone with nature--wow, that?s a high.?

Gibson may need one of these jaunts into the wilderness to relax before pursuing the merger talks. ?You just don?t run into this type of thing that quickly,? said Gibson. ?They take a lot of time. We have to get a feel of how our members feel about such a merger, and I?m sure ANLA?s board needs to do the same. So we?re proceeding cautiously, but proceeding nonetheless.?

If the new proposed merger does go through, it will make PLANET one of the largest trade associations in the green industry. There?s a lot of work to be done before this becomes a reality. Also, there is the possibility that the members of both organizations will not like what they hear, and it won?t come off at all.

In the meantime, it all takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Luckily, Gibson brings a diverse range of skills to the table. Talk about the right person at the right time.