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landscaping. I literally had to beg my way onto a landscaping crew in South Asheville (Snow Creek). I worked my way up and moved to another company in Johnson City. The entire time I was gaining field experience, I was also preparing for landscape architecture school. Becoming a landscape architect had been my goal since 25. Eventually, I moved back to Asheville and opened my own landscape business called Dig. When the recession hit in 2007-2008, I took the opportunity to follow up on my goal and return to graduate school.” With a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science from Rhodes College and a master’s degree in landscape architecture, with honors, from the College of Environment

“Life is shorter than you can imagine and each moment should be spent towards growth and happiness.”

Kelly Holdbrooks Executive Director, Southern Highlands Reserve


HE PATH THAT LED KELLY HOLDBROOKS TO Southern Highlands Reserve is an interesting one. In 2000 she started out as a smoothie girl at the old Max & Rosie’s Café on Lexington Street in Asheville after turning down an outdoor education position from Princeton. While her parents thought she was crazy, she knew she was meant to be in Western North Carolina—her intuition landed her in Asheville. For the next few years, she was an instructor for Talisman, a summer camp that worked with boys aged 12-17 who had behavioral problems. Next was a full-time school dedicated to working with boys in nature and helping them with their behavioral issues. “Eventually, I needed a break from such intense field work and began working with autism in Asheville (TEACCH & ASNC),” says Holdbrooks. “During this period I also coached women’s basketball at Warren Wilson College. Finally, I found myself burned out, and made a career shift to horticulture and 78

| November 2018

and Design at the University of Georgia, she believes that while the bottom line is very important in running any business, the mission and core values should lead and guide the bottom line, not vice versa. “I enjoy working in a team atmosphere, and working at a nonprofit often lends to team-based work both internally and externally through partnerships and grants. The work is driven more by mission and core values than a bottom line.” The Southern Highlands Reserve is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making the nonprofit a perfect fit for Holdbrooks. “Within the profession of landscape architecture there are many avenues to pursue. I chose conservation for my career. I wanted the opportunity to work with others on large landscape scale projects that will benefit the region. I wanted to work with a board and founders have a high level of integrity, and were committed to partnering with other organizations. Ultimately, each day I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve my community and region in the work we do at the Southern Highlands Reserve.” The most challenging part of her job is climate change. Because the Southern Highlands Reserve is located at a high elevation on the Blue Ridge escarpment, adaptive management is the name of the game. “With increasing storm events and intensity of storm events, which are a result of climate change, gardening at 4,500 feet elevation is sometimes challenging. We have been implementing stormwater mitigation practices since 2013 in our Core Park. We worked with local landscape architecture firm, Sitework

Profile for Capital at Play Magazine

Capital at Play November 2018  

Vol 8 | Ed 11 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Breath, Brain, Movement, & Self-Care: Non-medical Wellnes...

Capital at Play November 2018  

Vol 8 | Ed 11 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Breath, Brain, Movement, & Self-Care: Non-medical Wellnes...