Janesville52.4°

Milton native returns to her roots at Rotary Gardens

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
January 27, 2011
— Rotary Botanical Gardens has a new executive director.

Milton native Kelli Cameron replaces Gary Smith, who acted as interim executive director after David Jennings resigned in October.


Cameron was hired Tuesday after the board approved the hiring committee's recommendation. Cameron will leave her job as director of development and systems for Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services, a nonprofit organization in Spring Valley about 45 miles west of Eau Claire.


She starts in Janesville on Monday, March 7.


Cameron, 31, said she is thrilled to become part of the Rotary Gardens team.


"I think it's so exciting to be back in the community and to do something I love," she said.


Cameron said she's a longtime lover of plants and worked with them for four years at K&W Greenery, Janesville, while she was in high school and college.


Rotary Gardens also has played a part in her family's milestones.


"I had my senior pictures taken at Rotary Gardens, my sister got married there, and my mom's retirement party was there. It's always been part of our lives as a place to come and celebrate together. I'm excited to be able to put my interests and my skills to good use to benefit the community," she said.


Cameron views Janesville and Rock County as a community evolving from manufacturing to a destination place for families to raise their children and live.


"Many people don't necessarily work in Janesville but find it exciting because it offers so much more than jobs. The gardens is part of the community that creates a place for education, recreation and tourism," she said.


Cameron has a bachelor's degree in agriculture education and agriculture extension from Iowa State University. She earned a master's degree in agriculture extension education from Purdue University.


She previously worked at American Family Insurance, Johnsonville Sausage and the extension service in Indiana that was affiliated with Purdue.


"She's had some good training experience," Smith said.


The hiring committee liked her grant writing and fundraising experience, which is exceptional, he said.


"She's written a lot of grants and has been very successful in that. That's what a nonprofit really needs," Smith said.


Cameron's approach about staffing is a mentoring rather than bossing style, Smith said.


"She just has a demeanor that is very positive and open," he said. "The whole (hiring) committee was very impressed with her."



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