After an intensive selection process, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s Board of Trustees named Dr. Steve Windhager their new CEO last Wednesday.
According to a press release, Windhager will be filling his new position on Dec. 1. Currently the director of the Landscape Restoration Program and the Sustainable Sites Initiative at the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and a Ph.D. in environmental science focusing on environmental restoration ecology, he was selected from a pool of 60 candidates after the application process began in July.
Windhager said he is excited to plant his roots in Santa Barbara and hopes to see new growth.
“I like the idea of coming out to a native plant botanic garden, and to help it recover from fires and some public relations issues,” Windhager said. “This is a very exciting opportunity.”
John Wiemann, a member of the Board of Trustees, said he was excited to offer Windhager the position because of his amicable personality and his dedication to the principles of the Garden.
“Windhager has a dynamic leadership style, and the right skill sets for the Garden,” Wiemann said. “He is an outgoing person, has good leadership experience and is devoted to the use of native plants for landscape and research. We are thrilled to have a scientist of Steve’s caliber joining the Garden and we think he will bring a whole lot to the community.”
According to Wiemann, Windhager will uphold the Garden’s focus on native plants and will be instrumental in ensuring the Botanic Garden’s status as an educational center.
“The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden’s primary mission is the conservation and preservation of California native plants, and education and research about the habitat/environment of native plants,” Wiemann said. “Windhager’s experience with and commitment to native plants is very important to us because that’s our mission. We wanted someone who could further advance the education and research aspects of the garden.”
Echoing this idea of the importance of native plants, Windhager said he plans to develop the Garden as a source of research for environmental problems society faces today.
“I plan on bringing in the focus of using native plants to solve problems in Santa Barbara,” Windhager said. “This helps make the garden more practical as it helps to solve our environmental concerns. I want to take the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and make it a centerpiece for Santa Barbara and all of southern California, to focus on and help solve important issues of our planet today.”
Windhager also holds a master’s degree in philosophy of environmental ethics and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He said having a background in humanities gives him additional insight in his field of work.
“I always was an activist for the environment and I ended up deciding to get a master’s focusing on environmental philosophy,” Windhager said. “I got very interested in the philosophical application of environmental ecology. It’s a great way to bring thought and action together.”
Wiemann said the Board chose Windhager over other qualified candidates because his diverse education lends him a balanced scientific philosophy.