Tom Kay chosen to lead Alachua Conservation Trust


Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

Alachua Conservation Trust has hired a new executive director to replace Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson, who was elected to the Alachua County Commission in November.

Tom Kay, 34, lives on a farm in McIntosh with his wife, Christine, and started working at ACT about a month ago.

Creed "Trey" Greer, president of ACT's board of directors, said Kay distinguished himself as a top candidate among other "high-caliber" applicants during the organization's nationwide search for a new director.

A committee formed from the board of directors oversaw the search process, although the entire board voted on the candidate, Greer said. Members were looking for someone who ideally possesses experience or knowledge related to land transactions and natural resources, as well as the personality for fundraising even if he or she had never fundraised before.

Kay has a bachelor's of science degree in environmental policy and behavior from the University of Michigan, as well as a law degree from Florida State University, according to the ACT website.

His undergraduate degree shows his knowledge of natural resource issues, Greer said, while his law degree demonstrates his understanding of the legal side of land transactions.

Kay said he has worked as a staff attorney for a large nonprofit health organization as well as for the Alachua County Housing Authority. He spent the past several years as an attorney with Jung and Sisco P.A. in Tampa.

He was heavily involved in politics in Tampa, and in law school he volunteered with Howard Dean's presidential campaign, he said. Those experiences taught him to get out in the community and meet people and improved his skills at relationship-building, he said, which are abilities that are useful in his work for ACT.

Greer said Kay's qualifications for the executive director position were apparent.

"But I think the thing that really sold him to us, the thing that made him rise to the top once we talked to him, was that he just seems genuinely concerned about conservation," he said. "He has a personality and an aspect to him that tells people that he genuinely cares about it and he wants to help conserve land in Alachua County, and so that convinced us."

Kay said he has always been passionate about the environment, having grown up in a small Illinois town outside Chicago. "I more or less kind of grew up in the woods," he said.

He always hoped to work in the environmental realm, although his career didn't immediately steer him in that direction.

"You start going down a career path and sometimes it's a matter of opportunities arising," Kay said. He saw ACT as his opportunity to get back into environmental work.

He said he hopes to carry on Hutchinson's vision for ACT regarding environmental education and fostering relationships within its various partnerships. He plans to focus on conservation projects that protect lands such as the critical areas around Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and local springs, lakes and rivers.

The lands surrounding springs are key to biodiversity, Kay said, adding that he loves to kayak.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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