Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association Celebrates 72nd Annual Convention Honoring Industry Leaders and Legislators

July 3, 2024

Awards Highlight Contributions to Florida's Nursery and Landscape Industry, Honoring FNGLA Members and Legislators for Their Dedication and Impact

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) hosted its 72nd annual convention, where eight FNGLA members and four legislators were honored for their dedication and impact on Florida’s nursery and landscape industry. 

FNGLA leads the state’s efforts to preserve the vitality and future of Florida’s horticulture industry by serving as a recognized leader and trusted resource. FNGLA serves as the largest state landscape association in the nation, representing an industry that generates $31.4 billion in total output sales annually and directly employs more than 266,000 people. While operating within a small business industry, FNGLA demonstrates a big business impact. 

Several legislators were honored at this year’s convention for their meaningful efforts and dedication to preserving the state’s nursery and landscape industry. 


The following awards were presented at this year’s annual convention: 

  • Wendell E. Butler Award: Presented to an individual who serves FNGLA and the industry by providing leadership, service, contributions and has shown a sincere interest in the advancement of the association and the industry. This award is recognized as FNGLA's most prestigious award.
  • FNGLA Hall of Fame Award: Presented to an individual who has given unselfishly of their time and effort having contributed to the industry through pioneering, teaching, production, legislation, marketing, services or research.
  • Outstanding Chapter Leader Award: Presented to any individual who makes a difference in the success of his/her local chapter with his/her leadership, enthusiasm, time and talent.
  • Outstanding Educator Award: Presented to an individual who is actively involved with the teaching of horticulture.
  • Outstanding Volunteer Award: Presented to an individual who has contributed faithfully to the advancement of the industry through association activities or related service.
  • FNGLA/ Farm Credit Young Professional Award: Presented to an FNGLA member who is under 39 and has made an outstanding contribution to the industry.
  • Legislator of the Year Award: Presented to policy makers whose legislative priorities and work ethic align with and benefit Florida’s nursery and landscape industry.

FNGLA is proud to honor the following 2024 award winners:


Wendell E. Butler Award: Shawn Thomas, Sabal Landscape Solutions

Known as a consummate professional with a heart for leadership and service, Shawn Thomas has for over two decades contributed much time and talent in countless ways to both Florida’s nursery and landscape industry, and FNGLA. Among the many key FNGLA Northeast Chapter community service projects Shawn has been instrumental in over the years is the effort to beautify the landscape of the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum in Jacksonville. Shawn, along with fellow FNGLA Past President Ed Bravo headed up this effort on behalf of both the Frontrunners and Northeast chapters. Ever eager to give back to the industry, Shawn has also given much as part of Association’s Executive Leadership team, taking on the leadership track in 2017 serving as secretary/treasurer, vice-president, and president in 2019-2020.

FNGLA Hall of Fame Award: John Conroy, Fish Branch Tree Farm

John Conroy’s decades-long service and dedication to Florida’s nursery and landscape industry upholds a five-generation family legacy rooted in ranching and agriculture. The founder of Fish Branch Tree Farm in Zolfo Springs, John, alongside his wife, Linda, grows several species of palm trees and hardwood shade trees on the couples’ 325-acre tree farm.


Outstanding Chapter Leader Award: John and Janyel Taylor, FNGLA’s Manasota Chapter, Ralph Taylor Nurseries

John and Janyel Taylor of Ralph Taylor Nurseries have been a force for innovation this year for FNGLA's Manasota Chapter. Both have played an instrumental role this year in the overwhelming success of Chapter events such as its annual fishing and golf tournaments, various community service projects, and county fair involvement. The pair even helped kick off a new horticulture tour for high school students.


Outstanding Educator Award: Elizabeth (Leah) Diehl, Ph.D., University of Florida

Leah Diehl, Ph.D., is not your typical horticulture educator. As Director of Therapeutic Horticulture at UF’s Wilmot Gardens for the past 12 years, Leah and her team have developed innovative programing to deliver the benefits of plants to many.


Outstanding Volunteer Award: Debbie Mola Mickler, Walt Disney World

Recognized as a hands-on and energetic talent, Debbie’s eagerness to share horticultural knowledge and resources with the industry serves to elevate the entire industry. Debbie was significant in organizing FNGLA Floriculture Field Day at Walt Disney World’s Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival in the past. She is also a frequent speaker at FNGLA’s popular Knowledge College, as she has a solid reputation for identifying top topics and trends in the industry.

FNGLA/Farm Credit Young Professional Award: Libbie Clark, CEPRA Landscape

It was during her first year attending the University of Florida that Libbie Clark found horticulture. This Middleburg native was gifted a Gator Glory coleus, kicking off what would become a great love for horticulture. Libbie’s service is evident in many areas of the association. In 2018, she answered the call to serve on FNGLA’s Membership and Marketing Committee, contributing many new and innovative ideas for increasing the Association’s profile. Libbie also served on the FNGLA Convention planning committee in 2022. She has helped on numerous occasions with FNGLA/FFA programs, as she loves to encourage young people to consider horticulture as a career.

FNGLA Friend of the Industry Award: Alexandra Revynthi, Ph.D., UF/IFAS TREC

Alexandra Revynthi has performed critical research on addressing thrips parvispinus, and has provided growers, entomologists and landscape companies with promising products that can be used to battle this pest. This honoree's past efforts on combating the hibiscus bud weevil should also be commended.


FNGLA 2024 Legislator of the Year Awards: 

Senator Jay Collins, R-Tampa, and Representative Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid

For their leadership and courage in introducing and fighting for SB 1082/HB 1051, Housing for Legally Verified Agricultural Workers, which addressed a key concern for our membership that has been an issue for years. The legislation preempts local government from prohibiting the construction of housing for legally verified agricultural workers on lands classified as agriculture. 

Senator Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, and Representative Tiffany Esposito, R-Ft. Myers

For their leadership and courage in introducing and fighting for SB 1492/HB 433, Employment Regulations, which addressed an acute concern for our membership that would have added a significant, unnecessary regulatory burden on businesses, which would replace federal and state law. The bill established statewide preemption overemployment regulations and workplace heat exposure requirements. It was signed into law by the governor in April.

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