Beacon Award Recipients

2001 - Owen Regan
2002 - Roger Cook, MCLP, MCA
2003 - Virginia Wood
2004 - Dan Foley, MCLP
2005 - Mike Lueders, MCLP
2006 - John Filias, MCLP
2007 - Rudy Piantedosi, MCLP
2008 - Mike Davidsohn, MCLP
2009 - David Rykbost, MCLP
2010 - Jon Ciffolillo, MCLP
2011 - Genie Holland, MCLP
2012 - Monique Allen, MCLP
2013 - Roger B. Sturgis, MCLP
2014 - Matt Gramer, MCLP
2016 - Carol Robertson, MCLP
2017 - Stephen Crowe, MCLP, MCH
2020 - Joseph Szczechowicz, MCLP

Beacon Award

The Beacon Award is the highest honor the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals bestows on a member of the association. It is given to a person whose actions serve as a guide and a challenge to other members in the landscape contracting profession.

Guidelines

MLP members are encouraged to nominate colleagues for Beacon award consideration.  Please write a letter to the MLP board of directors with the name of your nominee and include the reasons why you believe he/she should receive the Beacon 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:
- Beacon Award  - MLP Board of Directors, 67 West Street, Medfield, MA  02052
- [email protected] (“Beacon Award” in Subject Line please)

Deadline for submission of Beacon nominees & letters of support is September 15 for award the following spring.  Beacon recipients are selected by December each year and are announced at the annual meeting.  The award presentation typically occurs in April.

Joe Szczechowicz Honored with 2020 Beacon Award

Joe Szczechowicz, MCLP
President/Owner
SLS Landscape Design & Development, Inc. & Greener Solutions LLC
Rowley, MA

Congratulations to longtime MLP member Joe Szczechowicz, the 2020 Beacon Award recipient!  Plans to present Joe with the Beacon Award in April were waylaid by the pandemic, but we didn’t want him to miss out on this well-deserved recognition. We caught up with Joe to learn more about his long and successful career in the landscape industry – and he will be presented with the award via Zoom in December 2020.

What is your educational background?

I graduated from Essex Agricultural School in 1969 in their Associates Degree Program in Agriculture. My graduating class was one of the first few classes to use this program and it was not designed to focus on any one part of the Green Industry. Some of my courses were Soil Science, Entomology, Surveying, Watershed Management, Equipment Use and Care, etc. One of our Field Trips was Duck Hunting!!

What was your first job in the green industry?

I worked for Leo Leonard Landscape Gardener, a small company of about six employees named in Peabody, MA as part of the work/study program at Essex Aggie. I performed soft-scape installations and property maintenance of high-end residential properties.

Can you give us a little history about your career path?

After graduating Essex Aggie, I continued to work for Leonard Landscape for a total of seven years and started doing my own landscape jobs after work and on weekends so I could hopefully begin my own landscape business one day. I didn’t focus any attention on learning more, as I thought I knew everything that I needed to know, and I didn’t realize that I knew very little about landscaping and less about business! I was busy playing softball, hockey and hanging with the guys and girls.

When did you start your current business?

I began my own landscaping business on April 1, 1975 because I had a handful of customers, a ¼ ton Dodge pick-up, a trailer and some tools, what more could I need? I worked mostly alone with an occasional helper. Fortunately, I did know how to do a quality landscape job, so my customers asked me to do more work and referred me to other new clients. I just kept asking friends, family and anyone who needed money to work with me.

What services does your company provide?

I started out providing property maintenance with lots of color and fertilizing services. I have expanded my service offering over the years and we are now a full service landscape company. The services we offer today are mowing, clean-ups, mulching, pruning, garden care, irrigation, snow services, lawn care and plant health care.

How many people work with you now?

I have about ten employees who work year-round that includes mostly managers, sales and admin staff. At peak season we will have about 35 total full-time, part-time and seasonal employees. We are looking to add more people to our teams just like everyone else as I continue to grow my company.

What do you like most about what you do?

I have always thoroughly enjoyed meeting prospective clients and finding out what their property concerns are and how I can help them enjoy their property. My favorite day is when a client calls to tell me how great the people in our crews are, that the quality and value of our work was outstanding, and they will refer us to others.

Who were/are your mentors?

My father was my first mentor as he strongly enforced character, honesty and determination to do whatever you do with personal pride and integrity. With a hard driving father ‘staying the course’ was easy to understand. My mother taught me compassion, patience and helping people.

My boss from my first green industry job was Leo Leonard and he had most of the attributes of both my parents. He taught me how you can combine the skills of both my parents and come away with a man who treated all people with respect but went about his business in a respectful and successful way.

The message for me was: It is all about the people. The work is secondary to the tremendous, positive impact we can have by focusing on the people.

There were many people along the way that helped me understand the power of knowledge like Mary Owen and the teachers from UMass, Jim Paluch from JP Horizons and Gerry Bruno Consulting just to mention a few. But what really had a big impact on me was meeting my peers at MLP and MALCP that influenced me to be more professional. When I was a new member back in the early 1990s I would watch and listen to guys like Dan Foley, Roger Cook and others and said, “that’s what I aspire to!”.

What’s the best business advice you ever received?

Higher education was never talked about when I was growing up so getting advice to attend as many courses from UMass and others while I continued working helped me grow. Jim Paluch kept saying,” you got to know your numbers” and Gerry Bruno taught me about Human Behavior Traits and that I needed to understand who I am, as a person, and understand others so that I could better connect with clients and employees.

What advice would you share with people starting out in the landscape profession today?

Follow your passion and hold yourself accountable to fulfill your dreams. Ensure your moral compass points true North every day with high Integrity and respect for everyone you encounter. Be an active and engaged member in MLP, MALCP, NALP and get involved, you’ll be glad you did.

Since you started your career, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?

This would take quite some time to put into words as there have been several big changes over the years. In my very early years, I used sheep shears to cut grass along fence lines and hand reel push mowers on certain properties because they did not want to hear us working! My first mobile phone was a Bag Phone and that totally changed how I went about my daily business. So my answer is the advent and advancement of technology, no doubt.

What’s the next big “game changer” you see on the horizon for the landscape industry?

There are many changes that are in the legislation right now that will affect our industry in regulations pertaining to fertilizers (see the new Nutrient Laws), pesticides (certain town’s maybe our state will institute bans), water (only Certified Technicians to install & maintain irrigation systems, fuel (reduce gasoline engines because of our carbon footprint), use of robotics, reduce amount of grass lawns because they need ‘too much water, fertilizer, etc. and more. The way we care of our environment while produce the next game changes. Legislation has been making decisions on these items that I mention here and more to come which will lead to how we can operate our business. In my opinion all of us as landscape professionals have been stewards of the land for years and we need to continue to be educated professionals that guide Legislators in making sound decisions that affect our businesses and our environment.

What have you enjoyed most about being part of the MLP?

In the early years it was just about improving my knowledge and getting certified, it did that and continues to do so. As time went on it become a lot more about the people in MLP as everyone was a professional, or wanted to be more professional, and it continues to do that. Even though our name has changed a few times the goals and objectives of MLP have never changed. Educate our members and create an atmosphere of networking that lends itself for me to be a true Landscape Professional. I always feel challenged yet welcome to be better at the work I do because of what MLP is: The Best.

Other than MLP, what other volunteer service have you/do you provide the industry and/or your community?

We have done small landscape enhancement projects for The Town of Rowley.
We donated trees to a local school and held a proper planting session for students
I’m Vice President of MALCP and been a Board member for several years.
I’m a Board Member of The GIA
Attend Ag Day annually at the State House
Working on MA State Bill S.2314 to improve the language used in the Hold Harmless clause in snow contracts
Visit State and National Legislators to discuss different Bills relative to Green Industry
Volunteered to apply lime at Arlington National Cemetery, what an honor.
Helped create the Environmental Landscape Program for North Shore Community College and serve on committee
Serve on the Environmental Landscape Committee for Essex Agricultural & Technical Institute

How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy being very active and even though I really enjoy my work I haven’t allowed enough time to I enjoy the things that I personally enjoy. I love visiting my two adult children and my grandkids and watching them grow.

I love to skate, ski, hunt, hike, play in the garden and travel with my wife. I have been a Patriots season ticket holder for several years so I love tailgating and watching football with all my family and friends.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your family?

I grew up in Salem, MA and now reside in Groveland MA with my wife Karen who just recently retired. Our son Kevin Szczechowicz is 46 years of life and works with me every day at SLS, his wife is Patty with three children, Nate who is 19, Jack who is 18 and Lilian who is 15. They are very happy to live in No. Berwick, ME.

Our daughter Andrea Connelly is 43 years of life and teaches at Bagnall Elementary School in Groveland, MA with two daughters, Julia who is 13 and Brianna who is 11.