Leadership and Governance

2021 President-Elect Speech: Emily O'Mahoney, FASLA

Thank you for this opportunity to address you. I am humbled and honored to have been nominated as a candidate for President Elect of the American Society of Landscape Architects. This process has been an enlightening experience that has been both challenging and rewarding. I have formulated and solidified ideas to further execute the Mission Statement and aid current initiatives, realizing that much of this must continue forward even during our troubling times. The world, and as a result, our profession, exist in an altered reality. It is weird. It may take a little while, but this challenge will make us stronger, stronger as individuals and stronger collectively as ASLA.
I am Emily M. O’Mahoney, FASLA, hailing from Jupiter, Florida. I have been in private practice my whole career covering the gamut of types of work from high-end single-family residential to parks and streetscapes. I am a partner in the firm of Gentile Glas Holloway O’Mahoney, which we are in the process of rebranding to 2GHO. We have an outstanding team at 2GHO, and together we do wonderful things improving our communities. Like Past President Shawn Kelly, FASLA, I believe that the common thread in our design projects is water, whether we are collecting it, retaining it, slowing it down, or visually and audibly enjoying it.  

For the profession, ASLA is that common thread that holds us together. ASLA is threaded throughout who we are and what we do. I always like to say:
ASLA is landscape architecture and landscape architecture is ASLA.
ASLA has a strong Mission Statement that should drive all of our efforts and initiatives. Our MISSION is to:
“…lead the planning, design, and stewardship of healthy, equitable, safe, and resilient environments. The Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship.”
The Society’s Mission is the core of ASLA and, therefore, should also be at the core of our professional life. We, as landscape architects, are adaptable in our design work and in our lives, which is so important with the challenges we are facing throughout the world today. I am proud to see how ASLA has responded as a team to aid, educate and facilitate collaborative opportunities through this crisis. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are struggling. To those that are struggling with health issues of their own, their loved ones or coworkers; to those who have been laid off or furloughed; to those students graduating from our landscape architecture programs this year. Please remember to keep your dreams alive.  

The economy, and profession of landscape architecture, will rebound. Stay connected to your community, stay connected to your peers, and stay connected to your profession. We will get through this trying time. Our ambition, passion and innovation, will be fueled by going through, and learning through, this pandemic.  The spaces that we create make a difference in others’ lives. The beauty that we create can heal the soul, help to relieve stress, and can improve one’s emotional well-being. Who could ask for more? It is that biophilic connection that is so important to mankind and we, as landscape architects, provide it. Never has the relationship been more apparent as during this shelter-at-home period.

There are more people walking, running and biking around the neighborhood than ever before. I anticipate that this pandemic, resulting in clearing skies and water bodies with a side effect of healthier bodies, could serve as turning point in the fight for a cultural shift towards addressing climate change in all decision-making activities. Pandemics will probably continue to threaten our life since we are quickly connected around town and around the world. Therefore, how can we shift in our design outlook to account for social distancing, a counter movement for humanity, and where ‘health, safety and welfare’ take on new expanded meaning?  We are in for change and while this challenge is new, change itself is not new to us. We are adaptable. We need to lead the way in the design of spaces that respond to the altered perception of the public realm. Let’s take this on with a passion!

We must also maintain our vigilance and focus on the long-term goals and objectives of the Society to ensure the goals developed over the last several years are met. I will be honored to play my part to move it forward with some creative ideas I have formulated and through service leadership.  
I look at the work of the Society, as mentioned in my Goals and Visions statement, as providing advocacy for landscape architects from the INSIDE of the Society and advocacy for the profession of landscape architecture on the OUTSIDE. This is just my way of looking at the work we do. So much of it crosses lines and is interrelated. INSIDE we have all the membership services that offer business aids, studying for the LARE, continuing education for licensure, and the ability to connect with other landscape architects with the same interests through PPN communities. There is support for private, public and institutionally employed landscape architects. Could we do more, sure! Since ASLA has fostered such a strong volunteer culture, expanding the work we do should be able to happen easily with expanded membership.  
OUTSIDE is advocacy for the profession, and it refers to more than just the wonderful legislative work that ASLA does at the federal and state level.  It covers the education and promotion of the profession to the general public. It includes standing up, in a strong visual way, for issues and movements where we need to be leaders, vocal and visible leaders. This should include the many aspects of climate change. Good, strong advocacy on the OUTSIDE leads to advocacy that reaches the individual landscape architects on the INSIDE, supporting our work and strengthening our profession by diversifying our work. The INSIDE allows us to be current through continuing education services which in turn, allow us to speak knowledgeably about advocacy of the profession on the OUTSIDE. Note the circle here. It is all interrelated.
If “ASLA is Landscape Architecture and Landscape Architecture is ASLA” then every landscape architect, every landscape architecture student, every landscape architecture instructor or professor, and every emerging professional landscape architect should be a member of ASLA. Can we make this happen? Is it a possibility?  Should it happen? Absolutely. We are stronger together.  
We need to strengthen our connections with membership, especially during these times. The Mission of ASLA needs to drive our culture, as an extension of what we are, what we do.  As the one collective voice for a relatively small profession, all together we will make a BIG impact. Increased membership must become a priority.

I am truly honored to have been nominated as a candidate for President. If elected, I promise to share my energy, experience and passion as a team leader, a collaborator, a mentor, and sometimes an instigator. Just imagine what we can do together creating the best ASLA possible for the profession, its members, and the future. I see my role as president to guide, to listen, to facilitate change, and to foster growth. Now, more than ever, ASLA and the profession of landscape architecture need to be on the leading edge. And as the leaders, we need to carry on the conversations, difficult at times, that need to be discussed.  
I will serve the membership for the next three years in a direction that is forward thinking, looking towards that larger goal; a place where the general population knows and understands how landscape architects create better communities, balancing between nature and the built environment. I will work hard, but collectively. If we all work hard together, we can have a greater impact. Most importantly, I will listen. I will listen to the ideas that you have, and I’ll ask the questions necessary to facilitate an open, respectful dialogue. This collective dialogue is where solutions are developed, and ideas envisioned. Through this process, consensus and passion are created involving all the participants working towards a common goal. I think they call this “buy-in.”

I love to grow students into professionals, grow emerging professionals into strong, licensed landscape architects, and most of all, I love to grow landscape architects into leaders. With ASLA as my foundation, I imagine what can be. I love to encourage and motivate landscape architects to serve their profession and to push them to be the best they can be. Often it is as simple as setting an example. Sometimes it is just blatant instigating!  Just ask the Florida Chapter and members of the various national committees I am on!

The next few years are going to be different. For the first time in a long time, we will have a new CEO/Executive Vice President coming on-board. Fortunately, we have an experienced, well-knit, productive staff that will be able to help make that transition as smooth as possible. However, changes are happening now. Going through this pandemic is altering the way we live and work.  

It is critical that ASLA, and each of us, are there to take a leading role in developing the new ways we live in work in the future by executing the mission statement through inspired and adaptive means. What I offer you is my dedication, my experience and my listening ears. Again, thank you for this opportunity.


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