Meet Katie and Andy
In May 2021, The Ridges Sanctuary Board of Directors announced the appointment of our new senior leadership team, Andy Gill, Executive Director and Katie Krouse, Director of Operations. In this Q&A, Andy and Katie share thoughts about their roles and what they look forward to at the Ridges:
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds and how you came to the Ridges:
K: Nature has always been my safe place. A place where I could guarantee comfort and easily find a frog or bumble bee that would listen to my silly ideas. As I grew up, I dreamed about what I would be when I was older. At one point it was a veterinarian, at another point it was an evolutionary biologist, or a biological engineer or a geologic oceanographer. At every point in life, nature was at the core of my interests.
I was lucky enough to join the Ridges family in April of 2015. Due to a few serendipitous connections, I connected with the executive director (Steve) and land manager (Brian) of The Ridges Sanctuary. I didn’t know anything about Door County, or the oldest Land Trust in the state but was instantly hooked and offered a job on the spot. Little did they know I’d be sticking around a bit longer than expected.
My position has grown throughout the last 6.5 years. Running camp, leading hikes, working the front desk, heading out orchid trekking with Tony, and more has led to where I am today. These incredible opportunities to work in most areas of the organization have allowed me to confidently move into my new position of Director of Operations.
A: I grew up just west of Milwaukee. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I spent four years working in the Wisconsin Legislature where I staffed a State Representative from the Baraboo area. Following that valuable experience, I moved to Austin, TX where I took on the role of Executive Director with Pease Park Conservancy.
My wife Katie and I were married in Door County during the fall of 2017 and moved to the county in early 2018. I spent about three years helping Katie open her restaurant, Heirloom Café and Provisions, in Baileys Harbor. During that time, I also became President of the Baileys Harbor Community Association and Secretary of Horseshoe Bay Farms, Inc. Since moving to Door County, I have always had an admiration for Baileys Harbor and central to that was my appreciation for The Ridges.
My parents always encouraged my sisters and I to be outside, whether that was at home, visiting my grandparents, or at their cabin in the Northwoods. Through those experiences, I grew an appreciation for the leaders who exercised great foresight by protecting our most vulnerable natural resources. I knew The Ridges was going to be a special place for my family and I.
How do you work together as a team?
K: Together Andy and I have the opportunity to grow the organization in areas we hadn’t had the capacity to do otherwise. Together we can provide support to the rest of the incredible Ridges staff and ensure that our mission is the foundation of all our activities. While Andy has the opportunity to focus on long term growth, I have the opportunity to focus on our day-to-day activities that lay the foundation for long term growth.
A: Katie is an incredible asset to The Ridges. Not only is she an expert naturalist, but she knows how to tell the stories behind everything that makes The Ridges special. We make a strong team because Katie really delivers on maximizing the visitor experience. I know that our programs and events are going to be of the highest quality so I can focus on other parts of the organization and our mission. I think what makes us an effective team is that we are both good communicators who appreciate honest feedback and can receive feedback constructively. We both want each other to be successful because if that’s the case then The Ridges is better off.
What challenges do you face?
K: On of the biggest challenges I will face is constantly comparing the present and future to the past. It will be important to recognize that The Ridges has evolved and comes out of the pandemic as a strong and empowered organization. People’s priorities have evolved, and we are seeing more individuals that wouldn’t normally hike trails, visiting the Sanctuary. We have the opportunity to educate more individuals now more than ever on the importance of preservation and stewardship.
A: The biggest challenge I see is how we meet the demand for our programs while remaining true the leaders that established this magical place. The history and culture around The Ridges will always be at the forefront, but the reality is Door County is changing – so how do we carry on the legacy of The Ridges while also overcoming the modern-day (and future) challenges?
What are you most excited about for the coming year?
K: I am most excited to take what we have learned over the last year and a half and deliver our mission through incredible programs. Through education and programs designed for individuals from age ‘walking’ to 100, we have the greatest opportunity to expand our experience to deliver our mission. One example is our Festival of Nature. In 2020, we rescheduled then cancelled the Festival, which pushed us to redesign the experience in 2021. Because of what we learned, we can enter 2022 with an even more robust and expanded Festival of Nature experience.
A: I am excited to see where we can take this organization. There is still so much potential to further our mission of education, outreach, and research as demand and support continue to grow. While it’s critical that we continue to preserve land where possible, I am increasingly motivated by where we can take our education, outreach, and research efforts. In my short time at The Ridges, I have seen how we play an important role in inspiring the next generation of conservationists.
What else should we know about you?
K: Being a part of The Ridges is truly a very special part of my life. I wake up excited to go to work and go home at the end of the day proud of the work we accomplished and ready to do it all over again the next morning. The hardest part about getting myself moving and to work is having to leave my furry friends at home. But never fear, my furry friends make sure we spend almost every waking minute outside. Hiking, visiting the dog park, or simply sitting on the front porch with my fifth cup of coffee for the day and a good book are where you will find me when I’m not at the office.
A: Right now, my life is consumed by being an expecting dad. My wife Katie and I are expecting our first child in October and are thrilled to begin that next adventure together. We like to spend time travelling and creating new experiences. In Door County, we keep it simple – lots of bike riding, time on the water, walking our dog Jerri Garcia Gill, and spending time with friends.