Board + Staff

at the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens



Steve Ulstad, AIA (Ulstad Architects), has provided professional services (Architecture, Landscape Design, Interior Design) to the Dubuque area since 1982.

Married to Jane for 45 years, they have four grown children and seven active grandchildren.

Beginning in the mid-80s, my family and I would visit the Arboretum's grounds often. Then, after Jack Frick invited me to join the Garden Club, I followed him to join the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. I was soon swallowed up in all of the activities! Later, I created the Planning Committee to discuss planning issues and take some of the stress off the Board's monthly activities. We have continued to maintain and build upon the original gardens and have created several new gardens: Legacy Trees, Garden of Eat'n, and the Allé, Herb Garden, Cactus Garden. I'm looking forward to a bright future working with all of the wonderful volunteers and greeting visitors from Dubuque and around the world!"


JEFF MOZENA | Vice-Chair

Jeff Mozena is retired President/CEO, and current Chairman of the Board of Premier Bank, Dubuque, Iowa.

From my early days picking black raspberries on the Marshall farm and meeting Mac Marshall on his porch for a drink of well water, I knew his farm was unique ... filled with trees and vegetation. I’m certain he would be pleased to see the beauty created in his memory. My uncle, Mel Gottschalk, assisted with the development of the Rose Garden and was active with the beginning of the gardens. Today we add to his legacy with the recent addition of the Edna Mozena Conifer Garden. The gardens provide a place of beauty to relax and enjoy nature. We welcome all to enjoy the work of the Dubuque Garden community.”


DAWN BANDY | Secretary

The controller at Home + Floor Show in Dubuque, Dawn Bandy is a recent graduate of the University of Dubuque’s Life program, earning a Master of Business Administration degree in April 2022, in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting in 1999.

I have been blessed to grow up in Dubuque, which has allowed me to enjoy the Dubuque Arboretum’s beautiful grounds. When my children were little, we would walk the grounds and have picnics in the park. Now it is my grandchildren’s turn to explore nature and enjoy all that the Arboretum has to offer. [They are particularly fond of the fish and the pond!] We are so fortunate to have such a hidden gem in our community. I look forward to serving on the Board of Directors to help preserve what has been created and develop what is yet to come.”



Marsha Abbott is a financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments in Dubuque, Iowa. Prior to working at the firm, she graduated summa cum laude and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in both finance and real estate at the University of Northern Iowa.

Residing in Dubuque with her husband, Brad, and their three children, Lexy, Gavin and Claire, they enjoy skiing, watching movies, and just spending time together as a family. 

Over the years, my family and I have enjoyed many quiet walks through the Arboretum. Every time I am here, a certain sense of peace and tranquility washes over me. I am honored to have been chosen to help on the board as it allows me to give back to the community in a way that I feel will leave a beautiful legacy for future generations to come."


WYLIE BLEDSOE | Board Member

During Wylie Bledsoe's work life, he had been a supervisor at Mercury Marine for 43 years and had enjoyed fixing machinery and keeping things running. He and his wife, Jean, relocated to Dubuque when he retired in 2005, as they enjoyed the area and the people. 

I enjoy being on the Board of Directors to help with the continuing development and growth of the Arboretum. It has been my honor to work on projects throughout the Arboretum and I’ve enjoyed working with many of the volunteers and being a helper when asked."


DEBI BUTLER | Board Member

Debi Butler is the imagination behind The Wanderwood Gardens, an immersive woodland playground for day-dreamers of all ages, where people of all ages can come to connect with nature and each other. Its inspiration stems from Debi and Andy Butlers' granddaughters and their love for flowers and nature. The Butlers dreamt of a place where their family could explore, play, and enjoy the beauty of nature. The result is The Wanderwood Gardens. Currently, in the early stages of construction, The Wanderwood Gardens will be connected to the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and promises to be a place full of joy and imagination for visitors for many years to come. Debi holds multiple degrees in Psychology: an M.A. from Loras College and a B.A. from Augustana College. Throughout the years, she has been active in community organizations focusing on mental health and brain health. The benefits of being outdoors have been integral to Debi's personal and professional growth.

I have always believed that being in the outdoors and around nature is essential for being a well-balanced person. The DABG is one of the most beautiful and special places for individuals and families to visit, explore, and experience what nature has to offer. I have always been amazed at the beauty and serenity that one experiences while immersing themselves in the gardens. I look forward to adding to the incredible legacy that all of the wonderful volunteers, staff, and fellow board members have created over the years."


MEL GRAVES | Board Member

Mel Graves was born in Cleveland, Ohio, raised in Pocatello, Idaho, and went to college in Baltimore, Maryland, and Chicago, Illinois. He came to Dubuque in 1976 and has lived and worked here since, including 32 years as a REALTOR with Brissey Realty. Mel has served on the Arboretum board since 1995 and was Treasurer 18 of those years.

Working at and for the DABG has been and remains both a challenge and very rewarding. I have seen our DABG grow from a lovely set of gardens in 1995 to the exceptional natural museum it is today. During that time hundreds of volunteers have researched, planned, built and maintained the DABG to the treasure we see today. Of course, this was not accomplished without the help of overwhelming support from thousands of donations of time, capital and gifts of plants & equipment from Dubuque area businesses, individuals and city, county, state and private grants, and significant legacy gifts. It has been a terrific experience for me. I remain amazed that we have never had to charge anyone an admission fee!"


MERLIN GREEN | Board Member

Merlin Green grew up on a farm in southwest Minnesota, learning to drive a tractor at the age of 5!

After completing a degree in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Minnesota, he and his wife Jo moved to Dubuque where Merlin began his employment at the John Deere Dubuque Works in the product engineering department. Most of his career involved developing software for the rapid analysis of field test data.

My volunteering at the DABG started with taking over the project of mapping and inventorying our trees and plants in the gardens. That work continues, but the computer background has evolved into the support and development of much of the office and gift shop software and processes.

For me, the Dubuque Arboretum has become a 'haven' where the beauty and peacefulness fulfill many personal needs."


LYNNE HAGER | Board Member

Lynne Hager is Vice President of Marketing at MidWestOne Bank.

Whether you're having a good or a bad day, I promise that visiting the Arboretum will put a smile on your face. A stroll through nature always seems to make everything better. During my tenure on the board, it has been a joy watching the Arboretum bloom into what it is today. I truly believe our Arboretum is one of the best destinations in Dubuque!"


DENNIS HOYER | Board Member

Dennis Hoyer worked at John Deere for 42 years in a number of capacities, including positions in the factory and the office. He managed many projects for the company and was the Product Line Manager for John Deere’s Motor Grader Line and the Materials Manager in Sweden for the Construction and Forestry Division.

The Arboretum is a special place for our family. We’ve had the privilege of living near the Arboretum for the last 18 years and have been fortunate to observe firsthand how many people enjoy this special place. When we have visitors, its high on their agenda to go through the Arboretum. With the direction of the Board and with participation of volunteers, we’ve seen great growth in the number of attractions the Arboretum provides and in the business of the Arboretum."


WENDY KNIGHT | Board Member

The Founder and Collaborative Strategist for Focus Forward, LLC, Wendy brings a depth and breadth of business and nonprofit expertise and experience in campaign management, organizational leadership, fundraising, strategic thinking, and best practices.  With more than 37 years of experience in healthcare, higher education, and banking, she takes sound business principles and applies them to help move organizations toward greater effectiveness and efficiency in achieving outcomes.

I am delighted to serve on the board and honored to be asked. The time I spend at the Arboretum provides so much peace and tranquility. I am looking forward to creating an even more vibrant future with my fellow board members for future generations to enjoy.”



The founder of the nonprofit organization, Two by Two Character Development, Kristin Woodward-Vaassen's passion to help people, animals, and the environment began in the mid-80s while teaching elementary students. After 20 years in the classroom, Kristin was motivated to inspire good character in all children, thus the Kindhearted Kids Program evolved and is now impacting children throughout thirty-one states.

Part of Two by Two's mission is to teach children how to care for the environment, which is exactly why I love the Dubuque Arboretum! It is truly a peaceful and magical place for all ages to enjoy, learn, and appreciate all living things. I am honored and excited to be a part of the Arboretum's board of directors and look forward to 'planting more beautiful seeds' for our future generations!"



JENNA HIRTZ | Executive Director

Jenna Hirtz started as the second director for the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in the fall of 2021. Her previous work experience:

  • an Audit Associate at Eide Bailly LLP, and
  • a Budget Financial Analyst with the City of Dubuque.

Her schooling began at Northeast Iowa Community College, where she earned an Associate’s degree in Accounting. She then transferred to the University of Dubuque where she completed a Bachelor’s in Accounting, Business, and Human Resource Management as well as a Master of Business Administration.

I have been coming to the Dubuque Arboretum since I was a little girl and have many fond memories here. Being able to create cherished memories for others as they visit our beautiful grounds is something I enjoy. I love working in a role where I get to use my skills to help build a beautiful environment that is making a difference in our community, our ecosystem, and the lives of our guests."


JARED McGOVERN | Director, The Wanderwood Gardens

Long-time Dubuque educator and conservation leader Jared McGovern is the Director of The Wanderwood Gardens. Set to open in Spring 2025, Jared will work with the Butlers during its development and construction phase as well as help lead in its opening and ongoing operations.

A Peosta Native, Jared is a devoted husband, father, and nature enthusiastic. Jared's interest in nature and passion for environmental education led him to complete undergraduate studies in Conservation and Environmental Interpretation/Education at Iowa State University and later graduate studies in Organizational Leadership at Clarke University. Most recently, Jared served as the Director of Conservation Programs at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

Thank you for welcoming me and my family to the DABG family and as a part of the next evolution of what the Gardens are about to become! At every non-profit environmental/education organization I have been privileged to be a part of, there has always been one important common denominator: volunteers. Their vital role giving back to our community can't be over-emphasized. I appreciate the enormous amount of time volunteers give to Dubuque's green spaces and look forward to meeting each and every one of you and learning about your love for this remarkably beautiful place."


LAURA PAULY | Events and Marketing Coordinator

Laura's education began at Northeast Iowa Community College and continued at Loras College where she obtained her B.A. in Communication with a major in Public Relations. Previous work experience includes:

  • Photography,
  • Accounting,
  • Warranty Administration, and
  • Assistant Office Manager.

These jobs not only helped her to gain valuable knowledge and skills for the future, but she was also able to feed her passion for making connections. Laura enjoys spending her free time with her husband, Jim, and their seven children (6 of whom are grown), boating on the Mississippi with her extended family, cooking/baking (and ALWAYS sharing), and gardening.

Growing up in Dubuque, I have hosted and attended many special occasions at the Arboretum. It has always been a go-to spot for our family to celebrate an occasion, as the beauty of its surroundings paired perfectly with the excitement of the day. When I think of all of the sponsors and volunteers that donate to keep the Arboretum such a beautiful and exciting place to spend special moments, I feel truly blessed to be part of such a generous team. From the time I was able to form my own thoughts, I have always had a heart for giving and for service. I am thrilled to experience and participate firsthand in the magic of what 'community' means to the Arboretum."


ANN MERIZON | Grounds Supervisor

Ann Merizon's plant and landscape journey began with a job in a small family-owned nursery. She then achieved a Level 2 Master Gardener certification while living in Kalispell, Montana. After returning to the Midwest, Ann earned an A.A. in Landscape Horticulture with an emphasis in Landscape Maintenance. This led to various roles in the industry and ultimately her own landscape maintenance business.

Previous work experience includes:

  • Research Assistant, Flathead County Extension Office
  • Horticultural Assistant, Frenz Garden Center
  • Owner/Operator, Yard Concierge

Ann also holds a B.S. in Elementary Education.

I moved to Dubuque in 2020 and began volunteering at the Dubuque Arboretum the following spring. I have so enjoyed getting to know the grounds and helping out on a variety of projects the last three seasons. I am honored to work with such dedicated volunteers and aim to help in any way I can.”


BARB BLOCK | Bookkeeper

A Clarke University business graduate, Barb Block's past work experience includes Auxiliary Manager at NICC; Senior Media Manager at McGraw-Hill; Event and Fundraiser Coordinator and Bookkeeper at Tri-State Christian School; and, most recently, Caretaker (along with husband Dan) and Volunteer Coordinator at the DABG.

I grew up on a small farm that shared the fence line with Mac Marshall. We traversed the hills of Union Park and Mac’s farm as children, and now the back part of my father’s farm is actually part of the Arboretum!