People first. Whether it’s working with community members or our own staff, professional enjoyment is largely a result of the personal interactions and experiences that are created through our work. That’s why creativity and service are invaluable attributes of Callander Associates staff so that the process is just as rewarding as the goal.
Our Principals – In their own words.
Brian Fletcher, President
Since the start of my career I have been fascinated with the design process. Nothing excited me more than creating alternative after alternative on seemingly never ending rolls of tracing paper. My day wasn’t meaningful unless the trash can was full of crumpled attempts and my hands were covered in ink. However, it wasn’t until I experienced my first community workshop that I began to realize how dependent strong communication skills were to the design process.
Design and communication have continued to be my passions. Over the years I have been able to build confidence in my own abilities as well as develop a great set of tools and techniques. By working closely with our clients to determine their specific project goals, Callander Associates is able to develop customized outreach strategies to maximize input and consensus. Now my most meaningful days include personal interactions with community members and well supported designs as they reach Council.
Now we are all challenged with continuing to build upon Peter Callander’s legacy. I have the opportunity and responsibility to shape the direction of the office and of the careers of our staff. My goals moving forward are to foster an environment that people want to work and grow in while providing exceptional service to our clients and building great communities.
A. Mark Slichter
Landscape Architecture is a field that really helps you start seeing the connections in the world we live in. Just driving around it’s easy to spot not only the work of others, but sometimes the process is apparent as well. People often come to us with projects at loggerheads. Typically there’s a difference of opinion as to what the best use of a site is, or if it needs to be changed at all. Recent examples: dog park people vs. park people, soccer people vs. baseball people, natural turf people vs. artificial turf people. We aren’t there to tell them what the right answer is. We’re there to hear out all opinions and find a way to achieve consensus that goes furthest to meeting everyone’s goals. It’s surprising how often we succeed! Certainly prior experience in addressing similar issues makes a big difference. It gives you credibility at the outset. But that’s only good through the first meeting or two. After that it’s how well we managed THEIR project. If we demonstrate thoughtfulness, bring a different perspective and are not overtly partial to a particular solution most folks will ultimately be ready to ‘come to the table’. It originates with a belief in public outreach (warts and all) as still the best way to come up with solutions that will stand the test of time. We believe in the process. I think the sheer number of public sector projects that Callander Associates has ‘delivered’ is testament to that.
The busier life gets the more folks value public spaces. Landscape Architecture improves lives by providing an escape from the grind and technology that drowns them, making places where we can be human together, be families together.
Having started at Callander Associates as an intern, my biggest influence was – and continues to be – Peter Callander. He took what I learned while at Cal Poly (‘learn-by-doing’, context-oriented design, form follows function, the importance of site analysis – all that good stuff) and nurtured and refined it in such a way that it continues to shape my career. He taught all of us that being honest and likable goes far and that building trust is everything. Most challenging about being a principal at Callander Associates is balancing the desire to do anything for our clients and staff with the reality of running a business. On the flip side, it’s important to not take ourselves too seriously and I enjoy reminding myself and others to laugh on a daily basis.
Creating and running a small design practice is a constant balancing exercise: balancing client design programs with budgets, sites and reality; balancing staff expectations and growth with resources and time; making sure the business is balanced with the professional practice, balancing personal time with endless professional demands. Each of those has good parts about it, even the business portions. My career has always been a solid foundation for me, my family and certainly rewarding from a personal and professional growth perspective. I used to measure [accomplishments] in terms of signature projects, such as the Monterey Recreation Trail, Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay, etc., but there is also the influence I and the firm has had on training other LA’s to have their own practice and do even more projects elsewhere.
For Marie, Landscape Architecture is the perfect marriage of creative artistry and technical finesse. Coming from a background in biology and history, Marie delayed graduation in pursuit of a triple major, eventually settling for a double. Fast forward 17 years and dozens of projects later, she is glad she took the “super senior” route. Every day brings a new challenge, and Marie is glad to work on such a wide range of project types to help clients resolve their most pressing problems. “The most rewarding aspect of landscape architecture for me is seeing the transformation of things. Sparks of ideas sketched on pieces of trace morph into public facilities that one can visit, play on, and walk through. A previously derelict parcel of land becomes a vibrant neighborhood park that serves local families. It’s gratifying to be part of the change that makes our communities better.” In her spare time, Marie likes to go to concerts, go camping, garden, and spend time with her family.
Dan was an east coast transplant before finding home here in California in 2003. As a kid he had an excitement for design and building, whether it was with Legos or drawing comic books. Through the years this passion focused on design of the built environment. Initially beginning his studies in Architecture, Dan quickly began to appreciate the opportunities that the practice of Landscape Architecture provided and shifted his focus toward the study and design of outdoor spaces. “I love the opportunity to utilize all kinds of building materials (trees, shrubs, wood, rock, metal, concrete, etc.) to create spaces that people not only move through, but truly experience in a way that impacts their everyday life in some way.” In addition to his leadership role as Associate in the firm, Dan utilizes his love for technology and is continuously exploring opportunities to improve design and communication in the Callander studios. Outside of the office you can often find Dan DJ-ing Saturday morning family dance parties, passing his Lego passion to his two children or exploring the wine country with his wife and friends.
Melissa (Missy) Ruth
As a Gemini, Melissa would describe her design style as a balance of structure and casualness. Designing a wide range of landscape spaces speaks to her ability to create without getting bored. Since joining Callander Associates in 2004, she has designed and managed a wide range of projects. Her involvement in projects from concept to construction has allowed for a well-rounded knowledge of the built environment including designing for site safety and sustainability. “One of my favorite things about this profession is not only seeing your creations built but enjoying them with my two boys and hearing them ask to go back!” Even when she is not at work her favorite things still involve creating…from designing and working in her garden (which surprisingly looks nothing like her designs, as she is a self- described plant hoarder), to creating an amazing meal with limited pantry ingredients (while pretending to be on one of those cooking competition shows).
Since joining Callander Associates in 2004, Dave has risen through the ranks and grown into an Associate role. Over the years, he’s had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of project types and project scales, delivering top-notch facilities for his clients. As a die-hard sports fan and former baseball player, he particularly enjoys the opportunity to design athletic facilities. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his son’s little league team and dancing with his daughter in the kitchen.
In addition to the many hats Sonja wears, she has been responsible for our internal growth (as our Human Resources Manager) and our external growth (as our Business Development Manager) since joining CALA in 2010. When she is not at work you can find Sonja hanging out with her two girls and her hubby or on the volleyball court coaching middle school girls and boys volleyball. “I have always had a coaching mindset and implement that in everything I do, whether it be at work, volleyball or home. I believe good coaches are mentors, great listeners, empower others, teach what they have learned and have an open mind to learn from those they are teaching…which if done properly leads to growth from within yourself, to growth as a team, and even growth as a firm.”