|A Conversation with new Executive Director, Mike Maher|
1) First, how do you pronounce your last name?
Although my last name spelled “Maher” is pronounced like “Mayor” as in the Mayor of a city.
2) Where are you from originally and what is your background (education, employment, etc.)?
I grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri and have a degree in Agricultural Education from the Pennsylvania State University. I began my career in Environmental Education at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro, Minnesota where I served as the Curriculum Coordinator for six years. Before joining the staff at Springbrook Nature Center, I was the Executive Director of the Manitowoc County Historical Society in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I oversaw the operation of two museums, extensive school programming, a research facility and many large scale public events, festivals and cultural celebrations.
3) What made you want to work at Springbrook?
It has always been my dream to be the Director of a nature center. I have family in the Twin Cities area and my Wife and I have been looking to move closer to them so our boys, ages 5 and 2 could grow up around their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When I saw the opportunity to apply for the position at Springbrook Nature Center, it seemed like a perfect fit. As I have had the opportunity to work with the staff, volunteers and co-workers at the city level, I have been amazed at the enthusiasm and commitment of everyone that I have met and my first few weeks have been great.
As I look to the future, I am excited about making a positive impact on the many thousands of visitors that attend the Nature Center each year. I enjoy spending time outdoors for so many reasons; to exercise, learn, find adventure, seek solitude and relax. I am excited to help others discover and explore these same pursuits.
4) What do you look forward to most as you embark on this new position at Springbrook?
I love the process of turning concepts into reality and I see many ways I can apply this passion to Springbrook Nature Center. There are small examples that can be seen every day like developing a new exhibit, class or program and there are some large scale projects like replacing our more than 1,000 feet of floating boardwalks and working as part of a team to develop our SPRING Project, which will include a new interpretive center, outdoor classrooms, and visitor-focused landscaped spaces.
5) What is your favorite non-work activity(-ies)?
I love spending time in the outdoors hiking, biking, canoeing and snowshoeing with my wife Patty and boys Will and James. I also enjoy music, reading, woodworking, history, sports and storytelling.
6) Just for fun, what animal at Springbrook would you say you are most fascinated by, identify with, or most closely mirrors your personality?
I have a thing for owls. I appreciate their mysterious nature and ability to thrive in conditions that people are not equipped to handle.
7) Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I used to be a night owl. Now that I have kids, I have become a reluctant morning person.
8) What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln.
9) What would you say is your most significant accomplishment to-date?
My most significant professional accomplishment was competed just a week before I left to join the staff at Springbrook Nature Center. With the Manitowoc County Historical Society, I oversaw the transformation of an 1860’s Greek Revival Farmhouse into a modern welcome center for our museum. The project included working with an architect on design and materials, hiring a contractor, exhibit development, landscaping, and selecting every furnishing from tables and chairs to artwork for the walls.
10) What would you like to say to the Springbrook supporter who is reading this right now?
My goal is that Springbrook Nature Center be a resource for everyone in the community of Fridley and the surrounding region. This may be a place to walk, spend a morning bird watching, take a class, attend a community event, complete an Eagle Scout project or have a picnic. I invite everyone to enjoy this beautiful place and to feel a sense of pride and ownership that it is part of your community.