Wichman steps down as NTBG director

  • Photo courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

    Kawika Winter, former director of the Limahuli Garden & Preserve in Haena, is the anchor author of a new research paper looking at alternative reforestation projects in Hawaii.

  • Courtesy National Tropical Botanical Garden

    Chipper Wichman

  • Contributed photo

    Janet Mayfield

KALAHEO — Chipper Wichman, who has served as a backbone for the National Tropical Botanical Garden for 15 years, is turning over the position of chief executive officer and director to someone else.

But, he’s not altogether leaving, and his successor isn’t new to the organization. In fact, Janet Mayfield has served for years at NTBG, first as controller (1997-1999) and then again in the dual role of chief operating officer and chief financial officer (2003-2018).

“Chipper has been captain of the ship for years, but Janet also has a deep knowledge of our work and of the organization,” said Kawika Winter, former director of NTBG’s Limahuli Gardens on Kauai’s North Shore.

Winter is living on Oahu and working as an NTBG research associate, furthering the work being done at Limahuli Gardens.

He pointed out the switch-up is a big win for the organization, because it frees Wichman up to do the things he’s best at — spreading NTBG’s message and connecting with the international community.

One example was bringing the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress to Hawaii in 2016, which brought thousands of travelers, scientists, and conservationists to Oahu for brainstorming and lectures.

“He inspires passion in people and can get people to understand what people in conservation need,” Winter said. “He works closely with the governor and the international community.”

And he’s been working with Mayfield to inspire that kind of passion throughout the years. NTBG’s chairman of the board, Thomas Hewitt, said he’s looking forward to seeing that dynamic play out within different leadership roles.

“For more than 15 years, Janet and Chipper have worked effectively as a team to lead and advance this organization, making NTBG a recognized global leader in tropical plant conservation, science, and education,” Hewitt said.

Mayfield said she’s looking forward to new challenges and working with NTBG’s staff and volunteers.

“Many, like Chipper, have made this their life’s work. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to be part of a solution to curb the tide of extinction and mitigate the threats of climate change,” Mayfield said.

“I am humbled and eager to be taking the helm of an organization with such an imperative and timely mission.”

Looking forward into 2019, Mayfield said she’ll be focusing on keeping NTBG’s mission the same. Some of the things she plans to take on to look include economic and staffing challenges.

“I have a slant toward education,” Mayfield said. “Without the education component, all the scientific research and conservation we do, we’d just be sharing it with ourselves.”

Wichman will remain president of NTBG, with a focus on fundraising and external affairs.

He will continue to represent NTBG in local, national, and international initiatives and conferences while reporting to Mayfield.

Wichman says he’s looking forward to the change of pace.

“After working to advance the mission of NTBG over the past 40-plus years, I am eager to take on this new role which will allow me to focus my passion for the gardens and the critical work we are doing in a deeply meaningful way,” Wichman said.

He continued: “The world is at a crossroads and it is important that we all up our game and do even more to protect the bio and cultural diversity on our island earth.”

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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