SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts announced the appointment of Michael Woods as its new CEO.
Woods, with more than 30 years of community organizing, education and government experience, is an accomplished and visionary leader and brings a wealth of experience to the association, said Tom Beyers, AISWCD board president.
With a proven track record of driving growth and innovation in the agricultural industry through conservation and education, Woods is poised to lead AISWCD into a new era of inspiration and service, Beyers said.
Woods succeeds Grant Hammer, who announced his departure from the association effective Dec. 31. Hammer served as executive director since 2018.
Woods’ appointment comes after an extensive selection process by the board.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Woods as our new service-oriented leader and chief executive officer,” Beyers said.
“His exceptional leadership skills, strategic insights and deep industry knowledge made him the ideal choice to lead the AISWCD. We have great confidence in his ability to steer the association towards even greater achievements that support the mantra, clean water, healthy soils.”
Woods has experience leading multidisciplinary, cross-functional teams across a wide range of public and private sectors.
Additionally, he is well-versed in grassroots organizing, fiscal management, strategic planning, training and stakeholder engagement.
“I could not be more honored to lead this association. At its core, AISWCD is an assembly of innovative and inspired conservation professionals who seek to protect Illinois’ greatest resources — soil and water,” Woods said.
“AISWCD is an essential voice and partner for the 97 Soil and Water Districts and hundreds of SWCD staff and board members across the state doing transformational work in all 102 Illinois counties.
“As CEO, I will strive to enable our association, partners and stakeholders to achieve even greater success in fulfilling our shared vision of clean water and healthy soils.”
Woods’ enthusiasm for framing key issues, harnessing creativity, securing vital resources and building conservation alliances will be instrumental in driving AISWCD’s continued service and voice for conservation, said Hammer, the former executive director.
“Under his guidance, we are confident that AISWCD will reach new heights and create lasting value for all stakeholders,” Hammer said.
In Woods’ previous role as the manager of the Division of Natural Resources within the Illinois Department of Agriculture, he successfully elevated focus on conservation, leveraged vital resources and united partners with a vision to enhance the states commitment to soil and water conservation.
“Dr. Woods played a vital role in building out the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s conservation initiatives,” said Jerry Costello II, IDOA director.
“The IDOA team looks forward to continue our strong working relationship with the AISWCD as we have a shared vision of ensuring that the agricultural industry is resilient to shifts in weather while protecting our soil and water resources across the state.”
In his prior leadership role with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Woods showcased his commitment to engaging diverse and divergent voices into the conservation conversations and seeking vital resources to support soil and water conservation capacity building needs, said Sarah Earles, SWCD Employee Group co-chair.
“AISWCD is poised for even greater success in the future because of the depth of knowledge, capacity and abilities Woods brings to this new leadership role, and the SWCD employees are primed to work with the association through grassroots advocacy, education and partnerships,” Earles said.
Woods has been seen as a vital voice in the Illinois environmental community, and his new leadership for AISWCD is sure to elevate and amplify a message that ensures our mutual vision of healthy soils, clean water and healthy communities, said Eliot Clay, Land Use Program director at the Illinois Environmental Council.
“IEC is thrilled to advance our partnership with AISWCD under Woods’ leadership as he has earned a reputation across the state as a voice for advancing conservation strategies that make Illinois agriculture and communities more resilient,” Clay said.
His vision for the association centers around increased service, organizational resiliency and an amplified voice for conservation professionals, Woods said.
“With this clear direction, AISWCD is poised to tackle the challenges of the ever-evolving conservation sector landscape and capitalize on emerging opportunities,” he said.