“"I believe in making opportunities for everyone. I like to recognize people who have a passion and the talent to get where they want to be, so I just push the door open a little bit more for them.”
Sara Davis's journey with arboriculture began when she was a child. She remembers spending most of her days playing outside until the streetlights came on.
"I was always running around, doing things outside in the garden, or climbing trees in the neighborhood," she said. "I intended initially to go into landscaping, but somewhere along the way, I had a class in urban forestry. I was fascinated by what trees can do for the community and the individual trees themselves."
Davis attended the University of California Davis and earned a degree in Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry with an emphasis in urban forestry.
After college, she began working in Colorado and eventually worked with the Denver Forestry Department. Davis worked for the city of Denver for more than 15 years.
"After I left, after 15 years, I was able to see the work I had done there start to come to fruition," she said. "From being able to get trees and tree planting integrated into the city's plan, the climate plans, all the park plans started to flourish, and I was able to place the importance of trees into all of those city guiding documents as well as the tens of thousands of trees I had a hand in getting planted in the community."
During this time, she became an ISA Certified Arborist® and served as a council member of the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUFAC). NUFAC is an appointed advisory council to the Secretary of Agriculture on urban forestry and related issues.
Davis also served as the President of the ISA Rocky Mountain Chapter. Not only was Davis the first female President of the chapter, but during her time, the chapter had its first female competitor in their tree climbing championship in 15 years.
"I believe in making opportunities for everyone," she said. "I like to recognize people who have a passion and the talent to get where they want to be, so I just push the door open a little bit more for them."
Davis said that she became President during a time of big change because the chapter was transitioning from one executive director management team to another. Additionally, the chapter underwent a rebranding to attract a younger audience.
"It was a lot of fun," she said. "I would encourage everyone to participate [in their chapter] regardless of where you think you're going in your career. It's a great opportunity to understand how things work at an executive level, and it's an experience that can translate into all kinds of other applications in your life and career."
After leaving the Denver area, Davis began working in California. Today she is the first Urban Forester for San Jose, California. Davis said this is the first time San Jose has had a city forester. Historically, arborists have been on staff, but in her new role, Davis will start implementing the city's urban forest master plan and create one cohesive work group.
Looking back over her career, Davis said she would tell newcomers to the industry to learn from their instructors and mentors.
"Our field can be hazardous," she said. "It's important that as you're learning that you listen to your instructors and mentors as you're learning how to do things because it's important to learn from those who work before you."
Check out the other Women in Arboriculture profiles.