2022 Speaker Bios


Keynote Speaker

Anita Brooks, Motivational Speaker

Anita Brooks motivates organizations and people to dynamic breakthroughs as an international speaker, certified personality trainer, communications specialist, certified training facilitator, and in-demand business coach.


A multi-published, best-selling author, from the page and stage, Anita passionately inspires fresh starts with fresh faith. Through her P4 Power Coaching™ practice, she helps improve processes, performance, and profitability, by teaching leaders how to plug invisible drains and effectively deal with people challenges.


Anita is also host of The Exceptional Leadership podcast, inspiring and educating today’s influencer. Connect and keep up with Anita at anitabrooks.com.


Shawn Askew
University of Virginia, Professor of Turfgrass Weed Science
Shawn Askew obtained his Ph.D. degree in weed science at North Carolina State University in 2001 and has been the extension turfgrass weed scientist for Virginia since then. He is a professor of turfgrass weed science at Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Dr. Askew's primary responsibility is to provide statewide leadership in the development of weed control programs for turfgrass. He conducts research, teaches classes, and mentors graduate students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.


Matt Bruns
Toro Company, Regional Sales Manager

Matt began his career in 1991, working at his family’s Toro Distributorship in Orlando.  In 1999, he returned to St. Louis upon joining The Toro Company and is the area Regional Sales Manager for Toro & Irritrol Residential/Commercial Irrigation Products.  Matt is an IA Regional Ambassador, has the IA’s CIC and CLIA Certifications, current EPA Water Sense Partner, and is a past Education Director for the St. Louis GIA.  Due to his industry knowledge and positive feedback from participants, Matt is a regular speaker at many events.


Kelly Dowell, Owner, Keldo DIgital 

Kelly Dowell has over 15 years of experience working in one of St. Louis’s largest residential lawn maintenance companies. She's worked in all areas of the business including admin, operations, sales, account management, and HR.

In 2017 she won Lawn and Landscape Magazine’s Emerging Leader Award which encouraged her to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams of creating Keldo Digital, a digital marketing and consulting agency. She wakes up excited to help companies use technology to develop sales, marketing, and recruiting solutions that fit their needs. Business leaders who desire to grow their businesses using the people and technology around them will find Kelly’s knowledge and expertise to be invaluable.

Kelly holds a BA degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from Lindenwood University as well as several certifications from NALP, Hubspot, Google, and more. She resides in St. Petersburg, Florida with her dog Broozer.

Laura Fernald Ekasetya

Piet Oudolf Collection

Laura worked at Lurie Garden for 10 years first as Horticulturist, then as Director and Head Horticulturist. Her responsibilities included guiding Lurie Garden as it matures – maintaining the vision of its designers while leading it into a new climate era. While the garden she fostered for a decade is ecologically-responsible by design, Laura shifted the organization’s mindset from one of pure maintenance to one of constant improvement – challenging itself to maximize its usefulness to its wildlife and human community. She previously worked at Chicago Botanic Garden, tending to perennial plants growing in the research evaluation and plant breeding areas. Laura is an evangelist of the naturalistic garden movement. She speaks world-wide and wants to change change the way we think about gardens. Currently Laura works with The Piet Oudolf Collection.


Dave Gunn, ISA Certified Arborist

Owner, St. Louis Asethetic Pruning

Dave Gunn has worked in the horticulture industry since 2008, and worked for the Missouri Botanical Garden from 2012-2021. Dave is an ISA Certified Arborist and graduated with a degree in Horticulture from Meramec Community College. He currently owns and operates St. Louis Aesthetic Pruning, specializing in the structural and aesthetic pruning of trees and shrubs.


Paul Jacobs

USGA, Argonomist

Paul has been with the USGA for 6 years as an agronomist. He graduated from Michigan State and before joining the USGA he worked at a local course in Michigan, then to Tucson CC, Shinnecock Hills GC, and Bel-Air CC.


Dr. Brad Jakubowski, PH.D - Candidate of Agronomy, Penn State

Brad Jakubowski has been involved with the Green Industry for over 25 years in golf, sports fields, res/com and education.  Brad has lectured on topics ranging from meteorology and agronomy to irrigation, fertility and golf course management. Brad is currently an Instructor of Turfgrass and a Ph.D. Candidate of Agronomy at Penn State University. He is a former board member for the Sports Turf Managers Association and had directed the 2-yr Turfgrass Management Program at the University of Nebraska.  He especially enjoys connecting with the industry through conference education programs.


Dr. Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky
Dr. Jonathan Larson is an Extension professor for the University of Kentucky who provides insect expertise for people dealing with issues in urban landscapes, turfgrasses, nursery crops, greenhouses, and households. He teaches across a variety of platforms using social media, videos, and traditional Extension publications. He is one of the co-hosts of Arthro-Pod, an entomology podcast.



Amanda Mellenthin


Amanda Mellenthin is an Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award winner with 17 years of experience as a junior high science teacher. Mrs. Mellenthin encourages her students to use problem-based learning through a student-created vegetable garden, native pollinator patch, and a school-wide lunch waste worm composting program. With the new addition of a school greenhouse, Mrs. Mellenthin and her students at Carriel Junior High in O’Fallon, IL have started selling native plants at the local farmers market to encourage the community to grow more pollinator friendly plants.


Danny Moncheski, ISA Certified Arborist

Kirkwood Gardens Nursery/SiteOne Landscape Supply

Danny Moncheski has been in the green industry since 2006. His passion is to meet the needs of industry by utilizing best practices in a common sense manner. Upon obtaining a B.S. from the University of Missouri, He has worked as an Utility Arborist, Consultant Forester, Sales Arborist, and Community Forester before transitioning into his current roles as head of tree sales at Kirkwood Gardens Nursery/SiteOne Landscape Supply.

Dr. Greg Munshaw, Director of Agronomy, Pinnacle Ag Research Center, Columbia

Dr. Gregg Munshaw is the Director of Agronomy at Pinnacle Ag Research Center in Columbia. He has been in the turf industry for nearly 30 years and worked as a university professor for over half that time in the southern and transitional climatic regions. Gregg is the author of numerous scientific and extension articles and has educated about turf around the world. Dr. Munshaw is passionate about reducing turfgrass inputs and has previously served as the Director of Research for the Alliance for Low-Input Sustainable Turf, a non-profit dedicated to developing improved varieties. In his current role he focuses on turfgrass stress alleviation testing new genetics, products, and practices to improve turf and soil health. Away from turf, Gregg enjoys spending time with his family, motorcycle camping, and creating content for YouTube.


Mark Wheeler,  Certified FAA UAS Pilot

MW drone photography

I am a certified FAA Drone photographer and I loved to share how by looking at things from above you can get a whole new perspective of your project or landscape design. I love photography and design and by shooting videos, maps and photos from the air I have found a way to help people see a whole new amazing perspective of there project and design. I have been married 37 years, my wife and I adopted five children, love to travel and follow the St. Louis Cardinals.


Paul Wait, Zurn Industries, LLC.

National Sales Manager, Irrigation

Zurn InPaul Wait is a strategic member of Zurn Industries’ leadership team as the National Sales Manager Irrigation. He is a professional presenter and electrical engineering alumnus of Cal Poly University San Luis Obispo. Paul supports the irrigation industry with 40+ years of work experience across electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, construction, landscaping, and agriculture. As a product specialist on Zurn Wilkins water safety and water control products, Paul has spent his tenure at Zurn Industries focusing on sales, strategic deployment, training, and marketing.




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