Longtime director will stay on as ‘lead ecologist’
After 36 years at the helm of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Executive Director Tom Cardamone is stepping aside and turning over day-to-day operations of the long-standing local environmental institution.
Cardamone, 60, will stay on board at ACES as its lead ecologist. The ACES board of trustees is conducting a national search for a new executive director (see related guest opinion, page 9).
“I will still be full-time, I will be fully-engaged,” he said. “I just will be redirecting my energy.”
Jeff Berkus, president of the ACES board, said they hope to hire a new director by the end of 2011.
The organization, over the last four decades mostly under Cardamone’s stewardship, has become ingrained in the culture of Aspen, engaging both tourists and locals with its educational programs.
ACES currently oversees four sites totaling 532 acres and employs a full-time staff of 30 people. When Cardamone came on board in 1975 as co-director, with his wife Jody, they were the only staff at the burgeoning environmental center and nature preserve, living on the 22-acre campus at Hallam Lake.
Jody had been selected by Aspen matriarch Elizabeth Paepcke, who founded ACES and donated the Hallam Lake land in 1969, to run the upstart.
The Cardamones’ early initiatives included bringing an environmental science curriculum to local schools, launching a naturalist field school and, over the years, adding staff and three additional ACES sites.
A new executive director will assume the day-to-day management operations of ACES, while Cardamone will focus on fundraising and developing programs at the expanding array of ACES campuses.
ACES’ Castle Creek Valley site at Toklat and Fryingpan Valley site at Spring Creek Hatchery have begun to take more of his time and pulled him away from the office duties of a director, Cardamone explained.
“Those two sites have a lot of potential,” he said, “and in order to bring all four sites into full flower, it’s apparent to me that additional energy needs to be brought to bear.”
Berkus said they are hoping to continue using Cardamone where they need him most, in the field, as the organization continues to grow.
“We are trying to free up some of his time,” Berkus said. “The new [director] is going to take over the administration, so that Tom can do what he does best.”
He praised Cardamone’s passion for environmental science, education, and the outdoors. That passion was evident in Cardamone Tuesday, as he returned from a backpacking trip up East Maroon Pass, “watching mountain goats and eating berries.”
Cardamone said he first approached the board about replacing him and changing his duties in early 2010.
Leaving office duties behind doesn’t mean leaving the staff at ACES, Cardamone stressed.
“I’ll be telling the story of what all the staff do and how they serve the community,” Cardamone said, “rather than worrying about their health insurance and our liability policy.”