VISTA Award Overview

The VISTA award is the most important honor the association can bestow upon one of its members.  It was created to recognize truly outstanding tree care professionals whose acts and deeds serve as a guide and challenge for all members of the industry. 

The award’s title is an acronym for Vision, Integrity, Service, Talent, and Action – the leadership qualities inherent in all award recipients.

DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED?

MAA members are encouraged to nominate colleagues for VISTA award consideration.  Please write a letter to the MAA board of directors with the name of your nominee and include the reasons why you believe he/she should receive the VISTA award.  Take the award’s purpose and title into consideration when crafting your nomination letter.  Be specific, cite examples, include details and, if possible, ask for letters of support for your nominee from other members.  Nomination letters may be sent via regular mail or e-mail to:

VISTA Award  - MAA Board of Directors
67 West Street, Medfield, MA  02052

[email protected]  (“VISTA Award” in Subject Line please)

Timeline

  • October 10 - Deadline for submission of VISTA nominees and letters of support
  • Late October - Board members review nominations and deliberate
  • Early November - Final decision is made regarding VISTA recipient
  • Nov/Dec - VISTA recipient is notified/presenter selected
  • February - VISTA recipient announced at annual meeting
  • March - Announcement made via meeting notice/speech written
  • April - VISTA Award presented at membership meeting

Past Recipients:

2000 - Mark Tobin, MCA
2001 - Ron Despres, MCA
2002 - Matt Foti, MCA
2003 - Dennis Ryan, MCA
2004 - Will Maley, MCA
2005 - M. Virginia Wood, CMP
2006 - George Mellick, MCA
2007 - Henry Davis III, MCA (Ret.)
2008 - Cricket Vlass, MCA
2009 - Carl A. Cathcart, MCA
2010 - James Abusamra, MCA
2011 - Ellis Allen, MCA
2012 - Robert Childs
2013 - Mike Lueders, MCA, MCLP
2014 - Scott McPhee, MCA
2016 - Ron Yaple, MCA
2017 - Lenny Cleaves, MCA
2018 - Bob Greymont, MCA
2019 - Richard Herfurth, MCA
2020 - Andy Felix, MCA


Read more about recent recipients here.

VISTA Award

Congratulations to Andy Felix, MCA - the 2020 VISTA Award Recipient

Colleagues and family celebrate VISTA recognition (left to right): Mike Barrows, John Haehnel, Kevin Cleveland, MCA,
Andy Felix, MCA, Lindsay Felix McCarthy and Riley, Meagon Felix, Tyler Felix and Chase, and Cameron Felix

Plans to present Andy Felix, MCA with the 2020 VISTA Award at our April dinner meeting may have been thwarted by the pandemic, but that didn’t stop us from making sure he received this well-deserved recognition. We caught up with Andy to learn more about his storied career in tree care and to get his take on what the future may hold for our industry.

SNAPSHOT OF AN ADMIRED ARBORIST 

Andy Felix, MCA
President
Tree Tech Inc.
Foxboro, MA
B.S. Arboriculture/Urban Forestry, UMass 1983

Volunteer Service:

President, UMass Arboriculture Club 1982-83
Past President, MAA 1995-96
Past President, New England Grows 1995
Director, Tree Fund 1998-2000
MAA/UMass Endowment Committee 1999-2000
TCIA Accreditation Council 2010
Past Chair, Tree Care Industry Association 2018
Director, Mass. Tree Wardens and Foresters Association 2003-2006
Volunteer Tree Warden, Town of Foxboro 2002-2012
Chairman, Foxboro Tree Committee
Co-Founder, Foxboro Lacrosse Association
TCIA Foundation, Board of Trustees 2019-Present

How did you get started in the tree care business?
I remember when I was about 10 years old, my father and Frank Harder put me up in a brand new 45’ Skyworker “straight stick” and walked away saying,“have a nice day” and I didn’t mind. My first boss was a well-known arborist in New York, Jon Hickey. I worked for as a hose dragger on a spray rig for the second round of Gypsy moth sprays and “cover” sprays to kill every insect in sight. Soon after, I started climbing on all my college breaks. “Big wood” on Long Islands’ North Shore, 90-foot oaks with huge spread on beautiful properties. It was a great place to learn.

Can you tell us more about your career path?
I grew up around the industry. My father, Bob Felix, helped run Harder Tree Service, one of the largest tree companies on Long island. At that time, he was president of both the Long Island Arborist Association and the National Arborist Association (NAA). In 1972, he was hired to run NAA full time. The NAA office was literally run out of our family home throughout my school years. This allowed me to meet many industry leaders and appreciate the success they achieved with minimal time spent sitting behind a desk. I saw, first-hand, the opportunities available in arboriculture. I applied to schools that offered degrees in Arboriculture or Ornamental Horticulture. With the help of Professor Gordon King and Dick Garber, Head Coach of UMass Lacrosse, I was accepted to UMass, Amherst.     

How about Tree Tech? How did that get started?
Just prior to graduation, I was interviewing with the larger companies in the industry, looking for upward mobility. I was hired by Carl Cathcart, MCA to work in the Newton office of Bartlett Tree. I worked there for three years as a climber, crew leader and sales representative. Then, in 1986, I was given an opportunity to go out on my own. A local Foxboro contractor offered to co-sign a small loan from our local bank. With that, I purchased a brand new 4 cyl, gas, Morbark “Eager Beaver” from Willie at Hartney Spray in Norwood. I am sure many members remember Willie, Leo Dube, Frank Lyons and Tom Duffy. All great guys, willing to do whatever they could to keep you up and running. The one thing about it though, if you were going there to pick up parts, chemicals or other equipment, you had to figure adding an extra half hour to talk with those guys. They wanted to hear what was happening out in the field and loved to offer advice. They had the gift of gab.

Before we had a chip truck ready to work, we built particle board sides for my silver Chevy pickup and painted them green. That color combination was unique, and it is how Tree Tech’s color scheme started. Needing to start earning money, we began by chipping into the back of my pick up while waiting for my 1974 F600 chip body to be completed. We unloaded the truck with pitch forks when the truck was full. That got old fast and not the best task to share with your only employee at a new company. A few weeks later the chip truck, which was previously a box truck for a local band at the time “Windwood Hollow”, arrived. We took the box off the truck and that became our “shop” for the next few years in the back yard of a very generous Foxboro excavating contractor.

The company started out with you and one other guy, now you employ more than 90 people. Tell us more about Tree Tech.
In 1986, the Foxboro area did not have nearly the wealth that it does today. I realized locating the company there would present obstacles. However, there was also very little competition and plenty of opportunity to educate prospects on the value of tree care and help dispel the “tree cutter” image held by many people. The location was working all right and the rent was great, but there was not enough business to sustain a growing company. We needed to expand geographically and get closer to the wealthier towns where Arboriculture is more appreciated.

In 1986, homeowners and businesses would not call a company out of their area for any services. With in-laws living in Wellesley, my thought was to put an answering machine in their home. I called the phone company to make arrangements and was told they had just unveiled a feature called “remote call forwarding”. Prospects could dial our new Wellesley phone number and it would ring in Foxboro. It worked like a charm and helped us develop a strong clientele in the Boston area.

From 1994-1999, with the help of great tree guys and a strong economy, we went on a tear. This enabled us to save money and purchase 2.5 acres of commercial property in Foxboro where we built a pretty decent facility. Just prior to this, I had convinced Paul Harlow to come out of retirement and join our company. This raised the bar even higher. Between the new building and our brand gaining traction, we were able to attract some very good people, many of whom are still with us today. In fact, two of them recently retired after spending the 20 years helping our company. Hated to lose them but I am thrilled they were able to retire with a level of comfort.

Who were your mentors? 
Richard Davis, is the Foxboro contractor who co-signed my first loan, for encouraging me to go out on my own and showing me the importance of giving back to the community.

My father who, by the position he held, probably knew more about running a tree care company then anyone. This was a two-way street, however, as he was given plenty of material to write about watching me struggle through the numerous business-building issues we all face to some degree. Some worse than others.

The infamous Professor Gordon King, I was fortunate to have him as my Advisor and Professor. He retired the same year I graduated.

Mark Tobin, MCA for his knowledge and his totally relevant business-related “sayings”. Many of which have stayed with me to this day. His industry leadership, as both a volunteer and president of a great tree company, was something to aspire to.

George Ackerson, MCA for teaching me more of the technical side of tree care and how to prune “The Lowden Tree Way”.

Matt Foti, MCA for being one of the most interesting dudes I know. From tree work to travel, to boats and barefoot waterskiing, he’s always having a good time.

What’s the best business advice you ever received?
I used to think it was Gordon King’s “Stay small, go fishing and get a good accountant.” That kind of went out the window. Now I would say, “work with people who are smarter than you.”

What advice would you share with people starting out today?
Work for a reputable company, that operates legitimately, prioritizes safety, provides training and offers career opportunities.

Since you started your career, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
The equipment is faster, stronger, safer and more efficient.

What’s the next big “game changer” you see on the horizon for the tree care industry?
Robotics and equipment that reduces exposure to hazardous conditions.

How do you like to spend your free time?
Collecting weird, rare plants and turning our home into a mini arboretum - or on a boat with family, friends, fishing, waterskiing, and just cruising.

Speaking of family, Tree Tech is a true family business, right?
Yes, in that my two sons, one stepson, and my wife Meagon are all active in the business. There are also many people who have been here for many years and have become like family. This has been the root of our success.

What does your being recognized with the VISTA award mean to you?
To be recognized along with the previous award winners is as good as it gets!