Southern California Arborist Named “True Professional”
by International Society of Arboriculture

CHAMPAIGN, Ill (July 2011)– Carl Mellinger, an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist Consultant and owner of Mellinger Tree and Landscape Service in Pacific Palisades, California, has been recognized as an ISA “True Professional of Arboriculture”.

The True Professional recognition program honors arborists and tree care professionals for their positive impact in and around their communities. ISA President Tim Gamma paid tribute to Mellinger at a ceremony on Monday, July 25 in Sydney, Australia as part of the ISA Annual Conference and Trade Show, held July 23—27, 2011.

“Carl is an arborist and business owner who cares about his employees, clients and the industry,” says Gamma. “He does not compromise on quality; supporting his workers with uniforms, certification programs—even handbooks in Spanish to improve customer service.”

Because of the need in Southern California, among Mellinger’s primary objectives was having arborist publications translated from English to Spanish, which benefitted his employees and clients. He launched the John Britton Fund to raise money for tree research. Mellinger is currently revising a book to update tree location in Pacific Palisades.

“I think my ten years on the (ISA Western Chapter) board provided me with an even deeper appreciation for arboriculture,” says Mellinger. “It was the whole educational aspect; how we reach the public; how we make a difference in our community with tree care, and really trying to correct all the misinformation out there.”

Mellinger is one of seven individuals selected in the 2011 Class of True Professionals. ISA launched the recognition program in 2009 to increase public understanding of arboriculture and the professional skills of today’s arborists. Nominees selected for recognition represent various backgrounds as ISA Certified Arborists, urban foresters and performance artists—all advancing the cause of the industry.

This year’s ISA “True Professionals” judges included Greg Frank (chair, ISA Public Relations Committee), Tim Gamma (president, ISA), Justin Hancock (senior online garden editor, Better Home & Gardens), Jill Johnson (coordinator, Federal Urban & Community Forestry), Dan Lambe (vice president of programs, the Arbor Day Foundation), Ian Scott (chair, ISA Membership Committee and project developer ,Davey Resource Group), and Philip van Wassenaer (president, Urban Forest Innovations, Inc. and 2009 ISA “True Professional of Arboriculture”).

Profiles and case studies of the “True Professionals” will be featured on the ISA website at and highlighted in future ISA publications such as Arborist News.

Carl Mellinger's Case Study

The passion Carl Mellinger shows for arboriculture is evident the first time you share a conversation with him. His enthusiasm is palpable and reads like a “True Professional” checklist of how to be the best in the field:

  1. Attend as many seminars as you can.

  2. Choose days where your crew studies the practices they have learned and employ it on the job.

  3. Buy as much equipment as possible so as to stay cutting edge in the industry.

  4. Never compromise.

It’s that final point about ‘never compromising on quality’ that led to Carl’s recognition as a 2011 True Professional of Arboriculture by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). The “True Professionals” program honors arborists and tree experts who demonstrate best practices in the profession and the importance of trees and proper care.

Employees are an extension of the company

Carl is an ISA Certified Arborist Consultant and owner of Mellinger Tree and Landscape Service in Pacific Palisades, California. He employs a crew of eight and while he’s the boss, Carl fosters a team environment. Workers have the opportunity to make decisions and take ownership in the company.

“One way we keep the lines of communication open with the crew is by discussing a job beforehand and the possible problems they may encounter,” Carl says. “It makes safety a priority.”

“I have conversations with them regularly about tree health, the anatomy, and tree behavior. I teach them so they understand the job is not just about working hard. I give them reasons why they are doing what they are doing and why a certain technique is the best way.”

The majority of Carl’s employees are Hispanic. Not only does he provide uniforms and encourage regular attendance at conferences and workshops, his workers carry a Spanish handbook to curb any language barrier with customers in Southern California. While on the board of ISA’s Western Chapter, Carl pushed for expanding the Spanish program and was successful in translating arborist publications.

Tools of the Trade

As a business owner, Carl’s other focus is using the best equipment on the job. He remembers back in the 1990’s when he first visited the National Arborist Association (NAA) trade show on the East Coast. Carl was amazed at seeing some of the latest tools of the trade. Some of his workers were not as impressed upon his return, but Carl didn’t give up on them.

“I came home with a big duffle bag stuffed to the seams with new, innovative equipment,” Carl says. “The crew took one look at some of the contraptions I brought back, and some said, ‘Wow.’’ Others just scoffed. I told them it will make their work a lot safer and quicker with less effort and then they were interested. Now when I get new equipment, they all run to see it. They want to be the first to use it on the job.”

“One of the first tools I bought for the company was an expensive lowering device—an early generation of the Hobbs hoist—for use on extreme removals. It was retired when we purchased a newer version, which is a major improvement above and beyond what was produced decades ago. However, the old one now rests respectively under the work bench in honor of all those years of hard work. It’s a visual reminder of the improvements and technological advancements we have in our industry and how much we owe to those who invent these tools for our benefit.”

Less is Best for Tree Care

When it comes to tree care, Carl believes less is the best practice. It’s something he picked up from a John Phillips lecture on pruning at a Western Chapter ISA conference years ago.

“The tree system relies on its foliage for health, and if we take too much off, the tree can be harmed. It is important to teach the crew why we prune trees, and why some trees are left alone. This is paramount in providing the best tree care for clients.”

“I never recovered from what I heard at that Phillips lecture. It changed our techniques on tree care. The approach is a major shift that sets up apart from other companies.”

A Shigo Junkie

Carl admits he is an intense follower of renowned plant pathologist and researcher, Dr. Alex Shigo, who wanted people to get in touch with trees by learning more about them from the inside out. From this thought, Carl fashions his own advice.

“Lately, I have met a lot of arborists who have never climbed a tree.  Well, I say “go climb a tree.” Understand what is up there, not just from the view of the ground. Get a feeling what it’s like for a tree climber to be up in those branches. Feel the breeze on your face as you look out over the neighborhood. See the birds. Smell the tree itself. Feel the branches, holding you safely in the air.”

“Once you have spent some time up there, you will never look at a tree quite the same.”