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Staff & Board

Staff and Board Members

Board of Directors

A 14-member board of directors makes fiduciary and policy decisions guided by these six commitments:

  1. Promoting horticultural and environmental stewardship
  2. Building the infrastructure of our free public garden space
  3. Enhancing learning opportunities for members and guests
  4. Being inviting to all
  5. Being responsible stewards of our resources
  6. Achieving excellence in all that we do

Board

Board Members

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Becke Dorenbush

President

Becke Dorenbush has watched Central Gardens grow and change since its inception 20 years ago. She has seen buildings built, gardens mature, and events and children’s programming develop. And as she witnessed upgrading and improvements come to completion in 2020, she looks forward to a memorable 2021 with the Plant Sale and Gardening Fair, Fresh on Friday, the Summer Garden Party, Picnics & Performances, the Fiesta, Movement Saturdays, and much, much more.

Becke has been a dedicated board member since 2017, a regular volunteer at Down & Dirty, and a long-standing garden adopter. She also serves on the Gardens’ Events and Finance Committees and chairs the Membership and Marketing and Summer Garden Party Committees.

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Doug Marty

Vice-President

Doug grew up in Deerfield Illinois and spent every summer in Clear Lake at a cottage on the North Shore (the cottage by the golf course with the Hollyhocks).  He attended Drake University where he met his future bride Laura Marty (the real gardener in the family).  They made their home in Northern Virginia as Laura had their two children and Doug started the first part of his career at Anderson Consulting building computer systems for banks and investment houses.  After a number of years of travel, they decided that they wanted a different lifestyle and they moved to Williamsburg Virginia where Doug started the second part of his career as an executive in historic museums, spending 20 years with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, followed by five years at the Minnesota Historical Society as Deputy Director.  Doug retired in 2020 during the pandemic and he and Laura moved to Clear Lake.  Their daughter lives in California and is a wildland firefighter.  Their son lives in North Carolina and is a research scientist.  Having spent many summer evenings strolling the grounds of the Central Gardens over the past 20 years, Doug is happy to be joining the organization. 

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Ann Grochala

Treasurer

Ann is a master gardener who spent most of her career in finance in the Washington DC area and returned to Iowa in retirement. She now lives in Clear Lake. With parents and grandparents who had large vegetable gardens, she developed her love of gardening at a young age. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with young gardeners as a volunteer in the Kids BEE Happy Garden. She also maintains the Plant of the Year garden. Ann became a board member in 2018.

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Donna Dull

Secretary

Donna Dull of Clear Lake retired after teaching kindergarten for 41 years and then decided to take part in some community activities that she had been unable to join before because of her daily teaching schedule. Vegetable and flower gardening were done on both the maternal and paternal side of her family, so when the idea of a public garden was being discussed, she decided to join the project. She has been a member of the group developing our Central Gardens since the very beginning. Her first board position was as historian and then board secretary responsibilities were added. She continues to hold both positions.

Peonies from her maternal grandfather’s yard and a rosebush from her paternal great-great-great grandmother are important in her own yard. The rosebush is said to have come down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River by flat boat to Iowa before the Civil War.

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Roy Markwardt

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Roy grew up as a third-generation avid gardener. Being a farmer was a natural extension for pursuing his love of the land and an appreciation of what it can produce. He is pleased to be able to volunteer and be a part of what he considers a valuable asset of North Iowa. After leaving his gardens on the farm and 40 years of accumulation and labor of love, he and his wife Patty wanted to be a part of Central Gardens of North Iowa. He looks forward to serving on the board and making the gardens a beautiful place for all of North Iowa.

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Leigh Trembath

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Leigh and her husband Stuart have been residents of Clear Lake since 1982 when they married and moved from Chicago. Planning to stay just a few years, they found Clear Lake a wonderful place to live, so they set down their roots and raised two wonderful daughters here. Volunteering and being an active member in a community is important to Leigh, with past participation on the North Iowa Soccer Club, Healthy Harvest of North Iowa, and Clear Lake Farmers Market boards. Since 2006, Leigh has been involved at Central Gardens with a special focus on education – developing Fresh on Fridays and building the BEE Happy Discovery Garden. Leigh gardens organically and feels it is important to be a curious gardener, asking questions and learning from nature. When not gardening, Leigh loves taking photos, walks in nature, reading and spending time with family which also includes their two bernedoodles, Eva and Oscar.

Anne Eldridge

Anne Eldridge

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Anne recently retired from her career as Executive Assistant to the CEOs of National Bank of Arizona (Phoenix, Arizona) and California Bank and Trust (Irvine, California). Anne and her husband Ron, have five children and six grandchildren, who live in Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Anne’s love for Clear Lake began early.  Her grandparents had a home on South Shore Drive and she spent several weeks every summer in wonderful Clear Lake, Iowa.  A few years ago, Anne and Ron decided to buy a summer home here in Clear Lake.  Their “summer” home has turned into a “forever” home.  Although they will stay in Phoenix during the coldest winter months, they plan to spend more and more time in Iowa.

Anne is excited to be a part of the Central Gardens of North Iowa and plans to enlist Ron to volunteer at the Gardens as well. 

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Gary Nyhus

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Gary Nyhus has lived in Clear Lake for forty years with his wife Sandy, a retired French teacher. Gary and Sandy have two sons. Chad lives in Mason City with his wife Rebecca and son, Finley. Their son Jason lives in Minnetonka, MN with his wife Melita and daughter Ciella.

Gary is a retired math teacher, coach, and athletic director. He has been inducted into the Iowa Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, the National Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Iowa Athletic Directors Hall of Fame.

Gary has served Central Gardens as a volunteer since 2013. He also volunteers at Hospice of North Iowa, Mercy Hospital, Clear Lake Noon Lions, Zion Lutheran Church in Clear Lake, and Newman High School in Mason City. He currently serves on the board of directors of Apple Valley Assisted Living, the Newman Foundation, and the Iowa Baseball Coaches Association. He recently served as a mentor and is a former president of the Zion Lutheran Church Endowment.

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David Burgart

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David Burgart of Clear Lake joined the Central Gardens board of directors in November 2019. He began volunteering at the Gardens in 2014 and has been more involved since retiring in 2016 after forty years of work as a software engineer. He grew up on a family farm in northeast Iowa that was self-sufficient with milk cows, chickens, and a large garden and orchard. David loves visits with his grandchildren, camping, canoeing, gardening, reading, and volunteering for other organizations such as the RSVP and SHIIP. He is looking forward to helping Central Gardens grow and succeed in its third decade of operation.

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Barb Leonard

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Barb retired after teaching first grade for 26 years. She has lived in Clear Lake with her husband Jim all of their married life – 47 years. They have two daughters, a son-in-law, and two granddaughters. Her hobbies include painting (oil, acrylic, and watercolor), golfing, crossword puzzles, reading, and flower gardening. She volunteers at Fresh on Fridays cutting and making arrangements, which she loves.

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Bri Sholly

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Brianna (Bri) lives in Ventura with her husband, two toddlers, and two dogs. Their family loves spending time outside gardening, birdwatching, hiking, and exploring. She has a background in conservation, having received her M.S. in Wildlife Science from South Dakota State University in 2015.

Bri currently works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Clear Lake Public Library. She has really enjoyed partnering with Central Gardens over the last few years, including Story Time in the Gardens and the more recent StoryWalk®. She is excited to take on this new role and become even more involved in the Gardens.

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Jennifer Merfeld

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Jennifer and her husband Bob moved to Clear Lake after graduating from Iowa State University. Together, they raised three active children while Jennifer worked as a marketing professional in the technology sector, and Bob made his career in the agriculture industry. As a long-time resident, Jennifer has volunteered for a variety of events and organizations, including as a youth soccer coach for North Iowa Soccer Club and as a member of the Clear Lake Parks and Recreation board. Having been raised in a small town nearby, Jennifer spent many weekends and summers in Clear Lake and continues to enjoy its beauty and charm.

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Vernon Johnson

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Vernon and his wife Heather moved to Clear Lake in 2005 becoming active in the community as youth coaches in basketball and volleyball. Vernon works at Kingland in the marketing department and has volunteered for a variety of events and organizations such as North Iowa Fire,  the Clear Lake Wellness and Recreation facility and Tri Clear Lake. Vernon and Heather have three daughters. 

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Kirby Schmidt

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Kirby grew up on an Iowa farm near Farnhamville and lived there until attending Iowa State University where he graduated with a BS degree in Agriculture Education.  After teaching Vocational Agriculture for two years in Webster City he went on to attend the University of Iowa where he received a Juris Doctorate of Law in 1973.  He and his wife, Joyce, then moved to Grundy Center, Iowa, where he practiced law with a general practice law firm for 42 years.  They raised their two children there and enjoyed small town life.  Their son is a Physical Therapist in Grundy Center and their daughter is a writer and homemaker living near Forest City.  Kirby retired in 2016 and they moved to Clear Lake where they enjoy the constant activity of this small city.  They live near the north shore and enjoy entertaining their children and six grandsons on their pontoon boat.  They spend several months each winter in Fountain Hills, Arizona where he enjoys hiking and golfing. Kirby enjoys how the beauty of the Gardens is comparable to the beauty of a golf course. He is excited to be a part of the Central Gardens “team” and looks forward to learning what he can offer to help perpetuate the Gardens as one of the most beautiful and therapeutic places in north Iowa. 

Help Us!

Volunteer

Learn about ways you can help us out at the gardens. We are always looking for volunteers throughout the season.

Staff

Staff Members

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Joni Frederick

Development Coordinator

Since retiring as a corporate negotiator with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Des Moines and relocating to Clear Lake in 2016, Central Gardens has been one of Joni’s favorite places in north Iowa. She has served the Gardens since 2017 as a committee member for the annual garden party and now serves as its part-time development coordinator. Local music, cooking, and caring for plants and gardens are some of Joni’s other interests.

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Drake Tiedemann

Part-Time Summer Groundskeeper

Drake Tiedemann, a junior at Northwood-Kensett High School, has joined Central Gardens as a groundskeeper for the summer. Drake’s grandparents, Merlyn and Julie Tiedemann, brought Drake along with them to work in the gardens early this season and his enthusiasm and spirit was readily apparent. After just three visits, he was asked if he wanted to work here.

Drake enjoys being outdoors and appreciates the beauty of the Gardens. He participates in wrestling and cross country during the school year. Welcome Drake! We’re glad you’re here!

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Nikki Johnson

Office Coordinator

Nikki and her husband Rick are both from Belmond, Iowa and recently moved to Latimer.  Nikki joined the Central Gardens team in June of 2021 as Office Coordinator, and is excited to help CGNI continue to provide abundant educational, recreational and cultural programs for our communities to enjoy.

Nikki is also the Educational Coordinator for the Surf Ballroom & Museum in Clear Lake, carrying out all educational and community outreach programs.

Nikki and her husband are excited to welcome their daughter to the world in September.

Nikki also enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, doing anything outdoors, playing music, cooking, and baking.

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