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B.C. pesticide issue presents challenge for new WCTA exec


January 3, 2010
By Mike Jiggens


Topics

By Mike Jiggens

THE Western Canada Turfgrass Association’s new
executive director has officially been on the job for almost a year now, but
has only been flying solo for the past couple of months.

 thumb_jerryweb Jerry
Rousseau, former superintendent at Kokanee Springs Golf Resort in British
Columbia’s West Kootenay Region, succeeded long-time WCTA executive director
Bob Wick on Jan.1, but had been working alongside his predecessor until the end
of September.



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 During
that period of transition, Wick worked full-time to accomplish a number of
tasks too numerous for Rousseau
to look after himself. In fact, Rousseau
continued to work at the golf course until the end of March, juggling both
jobs.

 

“I’m
really enthusiastic about the position,” Rousseau said. “I’m enjoying it. It’s
up my alley. It fits my skill set.”

 

When
Wick announced his pending retirement and the soon-to-be-vacant position was
posted in late 2008, Rousseau said he felt he was up to the challenge of a
career change and actively sought the WCTA’s executive directorship.

 

“There
was quite an interview process from that,” he recalled. “I like to think I have
a pretty solid administrative background.”

 

Having
worked as superintendent at Kokanee Springs for six years, he said he felt
something more awaited somewhere along the line.

 

Not
only did Rousseau have his managerial background as a golf course
superintendent to his credit, but a past role as program coordinator for the
British Columbia Freestyle Ski Association provided him with key administrative
skills.

 

In
addition to having skied competitively for more than 10 years as a freestyle
aerialist on Canada’s national development team, he organized, promoted and ran
dozens of regional, provincial and interprovincial amateur competitions.

 

Rousseau
said the WCTA’s board of directors wanted Wick’s successor to come from the
industry.

 

“They
could have hired a professional administrator from outside, but they felt
they’d like to keep things in the family.”

 

With
about half of the WCTA’s membership involved in areas of the industry outside
of golf, Rousseau has set a goal for himself to learn as much as possible about
those sectors.

 

“The
more I meet people and talk with them, the more I realize we’re pretty much in
the same situation. I think the challenges are different in a public
municipal-type setting vs. golf, but in the end we’re growing grass and trying
to provide products to the best of our ability.”

 

One
of the more notable challenges Rousseau expects to face in the coming months is
the possibility of a province-wide ban of cosmetic pesticides in British
Columbia. The province has not initiated any legislation at this time, but has
been gathering information on the matter.

 

“As
far as pesticides go, we don’t have a position statement like some of the other
associations do. Part of my learning curve with this job was to not only figure
out how to administrate stuff day to day, but to look at where we are with some
of these issues.”

 

The
pesticide issue has been brought up at recent board meetings, and Rousseau said
it’s now his job to formulate some type of philosophy statement. He admitted
some members are sitting on the fence with regard to pesticide use, adding he
is cautious to come out with an official stand, one way or another, realizing
most WCTA members use pesticides.

 

“We
have done things that indicate we support the use of pesticides, by writing
letters to the PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) and joining the IEPMA
(Integrated Environmental Plant Management Association). As it stands, there
currently is no set position on it.”

 

The
WCTA has helped fund the development of the Plant Health B.C. program which
helps the horticulture trades profession attain integrated pest management
accreditation.

 

Rousseau
said he is currently trying to “get up to speed” on such matters as advocacy
issues and research-related items.

 

“Advocacy
to me is a personal goal that we need to be doing more. Personally, I bring
some ideas in—having been in the industry recently—such as changes or improvements
to the conference.”

 

The
WCTA’s annual conference will be held in Nanaimo, B.C. for the first time, Jan.
29 to Feb. 3. In addition to Nanaimo being a first-time venue, the event is
being held almost a month earlier than normal in order to avoid direct
competition with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

 

Rousseau
confessed to being somewhat nervous about the conference being held in untried
territory and not in its usual time frame, especially since this marks his
first effort at helming a conference on his own.

 

“The
reality is that I’ve had to dive into it, perhaps more so than I would have if
it were status quo.” But, he added, “I think that will benefit me down the
road.”

 

One
strategic move he’s already made was to relocate from the West Kootenay region
to Hope, a small community an hour and a half east of downtown Vancouver at the
south end of the Fraser River valley. Rousseau said Hope is close enough to the
Lower Mainland area of the province, where a large portion of the WCTA’s membership
is located, yet is a small enough and affordable enough community for him to
raise his young family.

 

Rousseau
said he hopes to bolster the WCTA’s membership which currently stands at about
800, “but before we can do that we need to analyze and see where we’re at and
where the room for growth is.”

 

One
of his priorities is to help establish a business plan for the association.
British Columbia, which boasts the vast majority of the WCTA’s members, is
“hanging in there” economically, but Rousseau said he’ll likely have a better
feel for things once the Olympics have concluded.

 

“We
may find that members are leaning on us a little more than they have in the
past, and we may need to provide more and better services for them.”

 

Rousseau,
an honours graduate at Olds College, was the 1999 winner of the Toro Future
Superintendent Award. He has also served as vice-president of the British
Columbia Golf Superintendents Association’s Kootenay chapter and was a member
of the BCGSA’s board of directors.