2018 Speaker Bios

2018 Water Symposium Header

Chris Butts Head ShotChris Butts
Executive Director
Georgia Green Industry Association

Chris Butts joined the Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA) staff in November 2008 as Director of Legislative, Environmental & Public Affairs and has a long tradition in the horticulture industry. Chris’ family operated an independent retail garden center in Athens for almost 40 years. This firsthand experience gives him a unique and qualified perspective on the issues facing the green industry. A Speech Communication Major at the University of Georgia, Chris gained experience in building products and banking before returning to the family business and the green industry in 2000.

Chris served in volunteer capacities with the GGIA Board for several years before his appointment. He received the GGIA Distinguished Young Professional Award in 2005, served as President of the Retail Division in 2006 and as GGIA’s Executive Treasurer in 2006-2007. In addition, Chris spent four years on the Athens Clarke County Water Conservation Committee and was the GGIA representative to the Urban Agriculture Council where he served that organization as Secretary-Treasurer in 2007-2008.

In 2015 Chris was selected as GGIA’s Executive Director. GGIA is a statewide trade association whose mission is to promote and advance the economic, lifestyle and environmental benefits of Georgia horticulture for our members, our families and our communities.

Michael DukesDr. Michael D. Dukes, P.E., C.I.D.
Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
University of Florida

Michael Dukes is a professor and irrigation specialist at the University of Florida in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. He joined the University of Florida in Gainesville in 2001. Michael is currently Director for Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology. His interests are in irrigation and water management, particularly in the area of efficient irrigation design and management, water conservation and minimizing negative impacts of irrigated systems. Michael’s research activities include residential irrigation efficiency and evaluation of “smart” irrigation control systems such as soil moisture sensor controllers or evapotranspiration based controllers. Extension efforts concentrate on implementation of irrigation control technologies to reduce over-irrigation and loss of nutrients.

He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and active in several committees and standards activities. He received the 2011 ASABE Young Extension Worker Award and the 2016 John Deere Gold Medal Award. He is Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI). In addition, he has served as Past-Chair of the Irrigation and Drainage Council of the ASCE-EWRI. He is also a University of Florida Water Institute Faculty Fellow. Michael is active in the Irrigation Association and received the Excellence in Education Award in 2014.

Michael obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Master’s in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Delaware. He earned a Ph.D. in Biological & Agricultural Engineering from North Carolina State University.

Peter EstournesPeter Estournes
Gardenworks Inc.

Peter Estournes brings more than 45 years of experience in many aspects of the landscape and green industry, including nursery production and sales (both wholesale and retail), teaching, landscape design, construction, irrigation, water management and maintenance as well as horticultural consulting. Peter and business partner Jay Tripathi own and operate Gardenworks Inc. a design/build and management landscape contracting firm in northern Sonoma County, California. Gardenworks Inc. was established in 1977.

Peter received his Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from Cal Poly, Pomona and has served in the past and currently as an adjunct faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College. He is a California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) Certified Water Manager – Expert Level, is EPA WaterSense certified, a Certified Landscape Professional, a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper and former Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor.

Peter has served on committees and boards of three San Francisco Bay Area water agencies and is currently Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper certification program for the Sonoma Marin Water Saving Partnership. He was selected for and from 2013-2016 served on the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Independent Technical Panel (ITP), which was tasked with providing the CA Legislature and DWR with information and recommendations on new urban water Demand Management Measures, technologies and approaches. In 2016, he represented the California Landscape Contractors Association on the California statewide Urban Advisory Group that provided input and recommendations in keeping with the Governor’s Executive Order B-37-16 regarding future urban water use. Peter has provided industry related input for that last two updates to California’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and is involved the current Landscape Stakeholder Advisory Group for a potential 2020 revision.

For more than 30 years, Peter has been a strong supporter of and actively involved in the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) and served as CLCA’s State President in 2007. Peter is currently active on the task force overseeing CLCA’s Water Management Certification and Performance Program. He was the Co-Chair for the Resource Management Committee in 2016 and worked with the committee to create and present six MWELO Workshops for 2017 and a 2018 series of Workshops entitled Mastering Water Efficient Landscapes.

Jim GastonJim Gaston
Director, Duke Smart Home
Assistant Dean for Advising & Undergraduate Research
Duke University Pratt School of Engineering

Jim Gaston is the Assistant Dean for Advising and Undergraduate Research at the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering. He is also the faculty advisor for the Smart Home, a live-in laboratory on the Duke campus where students experiment with new technologies and sustainable living. Jim earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from NC State University and a master’s in project management from Western Carolina University. He is also a certified Project Management Professional.

Ryan LavinderRyan Lavinder
Civil Engineer

Duke University Facilities Management Department

Ryan Lavinder has worked at Duke University since 2011 as a Civil Engineer in the Facilities Management Department (FMD).  The FMD Engineering Services group provides professional engineering support and oversight of Duke University’s utility systems and infrastructure.  The civil utilities at Duke University include all stormwater, sewer, water delivery and roads infrastructure.  Among his responsibilities are: Master planning and design of  campus site utilities systems; Project design reviews for new building and renovation projects; and Engineering analysis and monitoring of the various campus utility and building systems among other duties.

Prior to joining Duke, Ryan worked with KCI Technologies in Raleigh as project manager and senior civil designer;  Dewberry also in Raleigh as civil designer; WW Associates in Lynchburg, VA as project engineer; and the City of Danville, Danville, VA as engineering technician.

His work includes projects such as Dunn Creek Greenway, Wake Forest; Lejeune Trail and Greenway, Jacksonville; Everett Crossing at Kitts Creek, Morrisville; Larrel Park II, Apex; McCrimmon at the Park, Morrisville; and Hawley Estates, Granville County.

Ryan received his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering Technology from Old Dominion University. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute.

Linton- photoDr. Richard (Rich) Linton
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

NC State University, Raleigh, NC

Since 2012, Rich Linton has served as the Dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at NC State University.  He leads a college of more than 325 faculty in 16 different departments, more than 2,500 undergraduate students, and nearly 750 graduate students.

Under his direction, the college has developed a new strategic plan that focuses on “building people, programs, and partnerships.”

Prior to joining NC State University, he served as Department Chair of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State University and as a faculty member of the Department of Food Science at Purdue University.  While at Purdue University, Linton also served as the Director (and founder) of the Center for Food Safety Engineering and as the Associate Director of Agricultural Research Programs.  Rich received his Bachelor’s in Biology and Master’s Degree and Doctorate degrees in Food Science all at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. 

Linwood Peele 2018 GIC Water SymposiumLinwood Peele
Water Supply Planning Branch Supervisor
Division of Water Resources
NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ)

Linwood Peele is a water resources engineer with the NCDEQ Division of Water Resources in the Water Planning Section. He is currently serving as the Water Supply Planning Branch Supervisor with the Division of Water Resources since April 2003.  His career spans 23 years of water resources management and planning.

He is responsible for supervising the Water Supply Planning Branch. Linwood also provides technical assistance to local government water systems with Local Water Supply Plan and Water Shortage Response Plan development, review and approval; water supply assistance and implementation of HB609, water efficiency and conservation, drought monitoring and management; Water Withdrawal and Transfer Registration; and Interbasin Transfer Certification, along with many other water supply issues. Linwood also supervises the Aquatic Weed Control, Project WET and Stream Watch programs for the Division.

Linwood holds a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering and a Master’s in Engineering (with a water resources concentration) from North Carolina A&T State University. 

Mark SchmidtDr. Mark Schmidt
Principal Scientist
Manager of Global University Relations
John Deere

Mark joined John Deere in 1999 and holds thirteen US and international design and utility patents. In his role at John Deere he provides technical leadership on science and technology policy and sustainability issues, while also directing global university strategy and relationships. Mark is active in several professional societies, trade associations and standards development organizations. He has been quoted and cited in well-known media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Money, Bloomberg, Fox News and U.S. News and World Report among others.

He is a director and vice-chair of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), a member of the North Carolina State University Plant Science Initiative Advocacy and Resource Development Task Force, and Incoming Chair of the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP). Mark serves as a director for The North Carolina Arboretum (TNCA). He co-leads the Olmsted Landscape Initiative, a stewardship initiative focused on advancing the societal value of natural and managed landscapes. He is a member of the Golf Environment Organization (GEO) Expert Working Group.

Mark holds two Bachelor’s degrees, one in landscape architecture and another in agronomy and a Master’s in agronomy, all from Purdue University. He received a Ph.D. in crop science from the University of Illinois.

waldenpic2016Dr. Michael Walden
William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor
Agricultural and Resource Economics
NC State University

Michael Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist at North Carolina State University and a member of the Graduate Economics faculty with The Poole College of Management.

Michael has teaching, research, and extension responsibilities at NCSU in the areas of consumer economics, economic outlook, and public policy.   He has published ten books and more than 300 articles and reports, including North Carolina in the Connected Age, published by the UNC Press. He has served on several local and state level commissions. With his wife, he is the co-author of three “economic thrillers”, Macro Mayhem, Micro Mischief, and Fiscal Fiasco, designed to teach economics in an entertaining way.

He can be frequently seen, heard and read in the media. He has daily radio programs aired on stations around North Carolina for which he has won two national awards. He is often interviewed on local TV and radio news broadcasts, has appeared on NBC, CBS,The Fox Reportand the Newshour With Jim Lehrer and is frequently quoted in such newspapers as USA Today, The News and Observer, The Charlotte Observer, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. His biweekly column, You Decide, is carried by more than forty newspapers in the state. Michael has made over 2,500 personal presentations.

He directs the semiannual economic forecast, The North Carolina Economic Outlook. Michael has won numerous academic and public awards, including two Champion-Tuck Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting, the UNC Board of Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service in 2010, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2013 and the Holladay Medal for Excellence from North Carolina State University in 2014.

His newest book, North Carolina Beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050 was published in late 2017.  His Ph.D. degree is from Cornell University and he has been at N.C. State since 1978.   He has also been a Visiting Professor at Duke University.