IGIA Announces New Leadership

A Message from Becky Thomas


Happy Spring! Hopefully you are all off to a productive and healthy start to the new season. I love the way spring ushers in a fresh new breath of air into our nursery each year. It can be chaotic, hopeful, busy, exciting, frustrating, sunny, rainy, warm, cold - sometimes all in the same day. But in the end, a new season arrives along with the promise of brighter days ahead!

Just like in all of our businesses, spring has arrived at IGIA. This new season for our association brings some big changes to our IGIA staff. Our Executive Director for the past 6 years, Joe Khayyat, will begin a new position with the Illinois State Fair/Illinois Department of Agriculture on Monday, April 16. This new adventure for Joe is an exciting opportunity for him and his family. On behalf of all of the IGIA Board Directors we are happy to support him in his new career move. Although we are extremely sad to see him go, we understand that it is the right move for him at this time. Joe has served IGIA for 13 years. His dedication to our association has shone through in everything he has done. He has made countless friendships, been an invaluable advocate for members and led the association through some tough times. Joe's genuine and friendly personality are what many of us have come to value, and we will surely miss his presence at IGIA. Joe has assured us that he will not be gone for good - you can visit him at the IL State Fair anytime!

And now it is time for a new season at IGIA. On behalf of the IGIA Board of Directors, I am pleased to introduce our new Executive Director, Kellie Schmidt. Kellie has currently been serving our membership as the Marketing Director. Her new position as ED will begin April 16. The IGIA Board met on April 6 to get association updates from both Joe & Kellie and to formally receive Joe's resignation. During our time together, we discussed at length with Kellie her vision for our association going forward. As the board reviewed our options for the new leader of IGIA, it became very obvious to all of us that our new Executive Director was already in place. Kellie's enthusiasm for IGIA has helped her shape a promising vision for our association. Her competence, attention to detail and ability to manage and lead gives the Board great confidence in appointing Kellie as our new Executive Director. Kellie has the skills & passion we need right now to lead IGIA forward into a new season for our association. We invite you to join us for the journey ahead!

So what does this mean for you as a member? I think this new season for IGIA is an exciting opportunity for all members to get re-energized as an association. Our collective voice is only as strong as we all make it. The benefits you personally get from IGIA are only as strong as you tap in to. The framework is in place for this association to really blossom into a new season. We have a great network of members who bring lots of talent, ideas, needs, camaraderie and vision to the green industry in Illinois. I hope that fellow members will embrace this new season and engage in new opportunities for IGIA to serve them both personally and professionally. I also hope that members will be open and supportive to our new leadership. Kellie has certainly impressed the Board with her ideas and energy. We are confident that members will immediately benefit from her leadership at IGIA.

As we all head into spring, let's embrace this new season with renewed energy and ideas. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we wish Joe all the best and we welcome Kellie into our IGIA family. Thanks to all of our members for their dedication to IGIA. I wish everyone a very healthy, safe and prosperous season ahead!


Becky Thomas Signature

Becky Thomas
IGIA Board President


Farewell and Thanks from Joe Khayyat

It obviously is with a very heavy heart that I say good-bye to all of you. While this is an exciting opportunity for me and my family, it remained an extremely difficult decision because I continue to care tremendously for this association and our members.

Our members welcomed me with open arms, both 13 years ago to the association staff as its communications director, and then for the last 6 years as your Executive Director. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you and to have had the opportunity to develop what I hope are lasting friendships with so many of you. Thank you for your support and generosity over the years. We overcame many challenges and achieved many things together and none of that would have been possible without your contributions in commitment, energy and effort. The members of this association are incredibly dedicated and I will be forever grateful for having been a part of the IGIA family and to have experienced all of it for myself.

Having said that, I leave with complete confidence knowing that the IGIA has exactly the right leader at the right time in our association’s remarkable 93-year history. Your new Executive Director Kellie Schmidt’s unique skill set, especially her marketing prowess, unparalleled drive and work ethic, unquestionable integrity and fresh perspective will continue to reinvigorate this association and help take it to the next level. It is without any hesitation or even a hint of exaggeration that I tell you that Kellie is the best teammate that I or anyone else could ask for, and honestly the single most capable and productive colleague with whom I have ever worked alongside – here or anywhere else.

Some of you already have had the pleasure to work with her on various projects and events. But what you may not know is that Kellie is a successful businesswoman with myriad professional experiences in the private sector that will serve this association very well moving forward. In her last position, she worked for a children’s book distribution company where she managed a million-dollar marketing budget and a staff of 10 which she was responsible for hiring and firing. She’s also been a corporate marketing manager for a commercial real estate development company and had several professional level marketing positions in the insurance industry. Those diverse experiences not only prepared her to manage the association, but they will open exciting, new doors for the IGIA.

As you can see, you are in very good hands! And just as I will miss all of you, I definitely will miss the privilege of working with Kellie on a daily basis! She already has great ideas and plans for the association and she will begin rolling those out in the days and weeks ahead. I know she will need your help, just as I have counted on it so often, as it definitely takes a team. I also know you will be there for her, just as you have been here for me since day one! Thank you to all of you again! I feel so fortunate and truly blessed to have represented and served the members of the IGIA and I will always have a special place in my heart for this association.


Joe Khayyat Signature

Joe Khayyat


Meet your new executive director

I’m honored to serve as your new Executive Director and am so excited to be working with all of you in moving the association forward as we approach our 95th anniversary. While I've had the chance to engage with a lot of you at past IGIA events and in committee work, I look forward to meeting many of you face-to-face in the very near future. I'm hopeful we'll have that opportunity this summer when I'm out on the road making member visits, at our June Summer Conference & Annual Membership Meeting, at the IGIA Outdoor Amphitheatre in Conservation World during the Illinois State Fair, or at our September Grower's Tour.

Keep an eye out for much more from me in future Trending Green eblasts, and in the membership renewal packets that will be going out mid-May. Until then, I wish you a very productive spring season! If issues or challenges arise where the IGIA can be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 217.546.4733. I look forward to working on your behalf!

Kellie Schmidt signature

Kellie Schmidt
[email protected]