DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator Don Kissinger Retires

By Jeff Roe, DNR Urban Forestry Team Leader, Madison, jeffrey.roe@wisconsin.gov or 608-535-7582

Don Kissinger, Urban Forestry Coordinator for the north-central region, is retiring after nearly 29 years at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). His last day in the office was May 21, 2021.

Don’s contributions are significant.  His best days were spent out in the field working and conversing with community forestry managers in his 18-county service area. Don never missed an opportunity to share his passion for urban forestry and arboriculture.

He has had multiple career highlights. One that stands out is his collaboration with the UW-Stevens Point Senior Level “Urban Forestry” lab classes. Together, they would assist smaller communities by completing tree inventories and operations plans. The students would then present these to community staff. This program began in 2012. 

Over the past nine years, 17 communities of north-central Wisconsin have been assisted. Five of those went on to reach Tree City USA status, and eight others have completed urban forestry grant projects (i.e. actually implementing their plans!). This has been a very successful, win-win project. Communities receive inventories and plans, and the students receive real-world practice. 

We also need to mention Don’s work with the legislature to create our catastrophic storm grant program. Don should have known that when you propose an idea, you are the most likely one to follow through on it. He even bought a new suit for the occasion!
Don’s team and his communities have always appreciated his no-nonsense approach. You could always count on Don to ask a question (or five) no matter what. He can’t help himself. I have always appreciated Don’s passion for the work, the needs of our partners and his thoughtful approach to challenges. He has always been willing to try new things to elevate the profession. Personally, Don has been a rock on the team, bringing self-deprecating humor and focus to our work.

“I really cherished the relationships built with the community forestry managers and the diversity of these people responsible for their programs, whether a village of 400 or a city of 40,000,” Don said. “This diversity in both size and type of programs and arboricultural knowledge by the clerk, public works director, volunteer tree board or city forester kept me on my toes. I learned how best to be effective for all and quite honestly defer to those with more expertise in certain situations. I developed friendships with many of these folks and would follow their ups and downs and children’s lives in some cases. That is what I will miss most.”

Don and his wife Sue will soon be moving into their dream home — a lake house with amazing views they are just about finished building in north-western Wisconsin.

Tracy Salisbury, DNR Northeast Regional Coordinator, will serve as the contact for Don’s region until his position is filled.

For contact information for the DNR Urban Forestry team, visit here.

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