2021 Speaker Bios


Keynote Speaker

Jeff McManus, The Jeff McManus Group, Lead Cultivation Officer

One of the newest challenge’s leaders are facing is navigating a pandemic while keeping staff and customers safe and satisfied. Jeff knows the pressure of having to have an inspired and motivated workforce that is expected to get results. He goes
beyond the numbers and dives into the human-side of facilities so that leaders can foster connection, build loyal brands and make a memorable impact on the lives of their customers and staff.

A popular keynote and webinar speaker for audiences looking to ramp up organizational performance, Jeff uses his experience of turning teams around that
were performing well below their full potential and turning them into national champions.

Jeff’s turned his idea of “Growing Weeders into Leaders,” the unique influence of motivating staff, into a bestselling book that has made waves across the facilities world. If you’re looking to get inspired and inspire those around you, Jeff is a natural

Brie Arthur

Author and Horticulturist

Known for her leadership with the national Foodscape movement and her lively, information packed presentations, Brie Arthur is a celebrated speaker and bestselling author. With more than two decades of experience as a professional horticulturist, propagator and communicator Brie shares her expertise with audiences around the country and is a correspondent on the Emmy award winning PBS Television show “Growing a Greener World”. Follow Brie’s gardening journey through her YouTube channel, Brie the Plant Lady.


Cody Azotea

Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions, Inc., Account Manager

Cody Azotea, Account Manager at Focal Pointe Outdoor Solutions, Inc. with eleven years of experience in St. Louis. Currently overseeing landscape maintenance contract with Washington University in St. Louis. Passionate about horticulture and connecting people to plants.



Kevin Battistoni

Hunter Industries, Sales Manager

Kevin is an industry veteran having worked in all facets of irrigation from contracting to distribution & now manufacturing with Hunter Industries for 15 years. Kevin brings a wealth of knowledge and is very skilled at keeping that information fresh, interesting and timely. He loves sharing with and helping irrigation professionals in any way he can.


Matt Bruns
Toro Company, Regional Sales Manager

Matt began his career in 1991, working at his family’s Toro Distributorship in Orlando.  In 1999, he returned to St. Louis upon joining The Toro Company and is the area Regional Sales Manager for Toro & Irritrol Residential/Commercial Irrigation Products.  Matt is an IA Regional Ambassador, has the IA’s CIC and CLIA Certifications, current EPA Water Sense Partner, and is a past Education Director for the St. Louis GIA.  Due to his industry knowledge and positive feedback from participants, Matt is a regular speaker at many events.


Dave Chandler

Rain Bird, Regional Manager - Specification

Dave Chandler has been in the green industry for over 12 years, with background work with municipality parks and construction and current employment with Rain Bird. He, his family of 5 kids and wife Emily, live in Salt Lake City, Utah. For Rain Bird, Dave is the Regional Manager for Specification for everything West of the Mississippi River, less California, Arizona, and New Mexico. When not at work, Dave enjoys almost any sport to watch and play.


Kyley  Dickson, Ph.D., The University of Tennessee - Associate Director Center for Athletic Field Safety

Dr. Dickson is the Associate Director for the Center for Athletic Field Safety. His research focuses on player to surface interaction of both natural and synthetic turf. As well as new bermudagrass varieties for use on sports turf. In addition to the impact of soil moisture on bermudagrass athletic fields.


Laura Fernald Ekasetya

Piet Oudolf Collection

Laura worked at Lurie Garden for 10 years first as Horticulturist, then as Director and Head Horticulturist. Her responsibilities included guiding Lurie Garden as it matures – maintaining the vision of its designers while leading it into a new climate era. While the garden she fostered for a decade is ecologically-responsible by design, Laura shifted the organization’s mindset from one of pure maintenance to one of constant improvement – challenging itself to maximize its usefulness to its wildlife and human community. She previously worked at Chicago Botanic Garden, tending to perennial plants growing in the research evaluation and plant breeding areas. Laura is an evangelist of the naturalistic garden movement. She speaks world-wide and wants to change change the way we think about gardens. Currently Laura works with The Piet Oudolf Collection.


Paul Jacobs

USGA, Argonomist

Paul has been with the USGA for 6 years as an agronomist. He graduated from Michigan State and before joining the USGA he worked at a local course in Michigan, then to Tucson CC, Shinnecock Hills GC, and Bel-Air CC.





Lee Miller
University of Missouri, Associate Professor

Dr. Lee Miller is an associate professor and extension turfgrass pathologist at the University of Missouri. Lee also is the faculty lead for the MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic, and directs both the Missouri IPM program and Pesticide Safety Education Program. Current research interests include characterization of Pythium species causing root diseases in creeping bentgrass in the Midwest, and integrated management practices for spring dead spot on bermudagrass and large patch of zoysia.


Bruce Nelson

Armada Technologies, Owner

Bruce is a 30 year veteran of the test equipment industry.  Beginning in 1991 at Progressive Electronics, the original irrigation testing company, and continuing on to form 2 test equipment device companies of his own, including growing Armada Technologies into the #1 electrical test device company in the Green Industry.  Personal hobbies include competitive golf and hockey as well as raising 5 children, aged 22 to 3.

Dr. Gregory Pierceall

Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture

Academic career Purdue University 28 years, North Carolina State 2 years. SIU Carbondale 3 years expertise residential site and planting design


Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Owner, Write For You LLC

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is the Hoosier Gardener. She’s a 25-year, award-winning veteran of print journalism and owner of Write for You! LLC, a freelance writing and editing business. You can find her blog at hoosiergardener.com. Jo Ellen is immediate past president of GardenComm: GardenCommunicators International. She is a garden coach and has a four-season commercial and residential container planting business. For 20 years, she has worked at a large, independent garden center in Indianapolis, including a stint as buyer of perennials, trees and shrubs. A popular speaker, she has 50 five-star reviews at greatgardenspeakers.org.


Guy Sternberg,

Starhill Forest Arboretum

Guy is the founding president of the International Oak Society, a founding member and past director of the Illinois Native Plant Society, and a lifelong student of and advocate for trees. He holds an adjunct faculty position in Biology with Illinois College and is an adjunct research associate in Botany with the Illinois State Museum, and has authored several reference books on trees. His oak collection is the most comprehensive in North America and his arboretum Starhill Forest also grows more than 2000 other taxa.


Christy Webber

Christy Webber Landscapes, President

Christy Webber is President of a group of companies involved at various levels of the landscape industry in Chicago. She started Christy Webber Landscapes in 1990, incorporated in 1994, and has grown the company into one of the largest landscapers in the City. From high-profile construction projects like Millennium Park and The 606 to annual maintenance at the United Center and Soldier Field to small residential backyards -- Christy does it all. Her group of companies also includes a retail garden center and a wholesale materials supplier.


Brian Winka

Advanced Turf Solutions, Directory of Sports Turf

Brian Winka, CSFM is the Director of Sports Turf for Advanced Turf Solutions. Prior to working for ATS he was the Sports Turf Manager for 12 years. He holds a B.S. in Agronomy from Missouri State University and became a Certified Sports Field Manager through STMA in 2008. He has been a member of STMA since 2005 and is the former President of the Gateway Chapter of STMA. Brian’s background includes being in grounds management for over 20 years. Prior to being a Sports Turf Manager, he worked as a golf course superintendent.





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