ACES History in the making

What is our reality today is also history in the making tomorrow...

Jody and Tom Cardamone, the original co-directors of ACES are slowly removing themselves from the helm of this organization into the think tank positions in the back. While Jody has made the switch from the day-to-day tasks at ACES a few years back, Tom has been busy growing it into what ACES is today - a nationally recognized leader in environmental education for people of all ages. But now it's time for Tom to think, reflect and move forward with ACES as the lead ecologist and leave the day-to-day tasks to someone else...

Below is Tom's take on this transition time at ACES. Click here to read an Aspen Daily News article about the recent changes at ACES. Click here to learn more details about the ACES Executive Director search.

Thirty-six years ago this August I moved into the old horse barn at Hallam Lake with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ first naturalist-director, my wife Jody. She had just been hired by Elizabeth Paepcke days before and we were both very excited about all the opportunity that lay in front of us. ACES was in its infancy, and we were free to imagine and create its future.
The next year Jody and I became the co-naturalist-directors and sole staff. Steady growth over a decade and a half solidified ACES’ Environmental Education Programs in the schools, developed the summertime Naturalist Field School for adults, and created the new Environmental Learning Center (1989) at Hallam Lake.
By 1990, with children Kate and Will added to our family, Jody had stepped into her preferred role as head naturalist and I remained director. To this day, Jody’s environmental sensibilities influence ACES’ character and guide me.
A steady and renewing flow of educators and naturalists, interns, children, trustees, professors and students have nurtured ACES for four decades now.
Today ACES serves a valley community with six properties, including four primary sites. Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch, The Catto Center at Toklat, and Spring Creek provide refuge for native wildlife and plants, and inspiring educational opportunities for all, from toddlers to elders.
As is normal for an organization with dedicated and responsible trustees, succession in leadership has always been a healthy part of the internal ACES discussion. At my suggestion 18 months ago, and reinforced by growing trustee interest nine months ago, the succession discussion has become increasingly focused, engaging the full board and the senior staff. ACES is now initiating a search for a new executive director.
Even 18 months ago, ACES daily operations were outgrowing my capacity, which speaks well of ACES’ success. Four primary sites, 532 acres, 50,000 square feet of buildings, and a staff of nearly 50 individuals (comprising 30 full-time equivalents and delivering programs to nearly 90,000 annually) is a lot to juggle, even with the very capable energies of current ACES staff.
Together trustees, staff, and I have concluded that attracting a great new executive director is an important next step in ACES’ evolution. I can be most effective now by devoting myself to assuring ACES long-term vitality as I pass the baton to my successor. My role will shift to lead ecologist, where I will remain fully engaged with ACES, handing off the day-to-day management in favor of developing the educational and stewardship potential of our four remarkable sites.
I look forward to eventually introducing the community to a new ACES executive director as I shift my energies away from the day-to-day operations and away from my desk, and out into the community, spending my time more evenly at all four sites.
In 1975 Jody began leading the ACES “horse” at Hallam Lake, with some help from me. Within a year we shared lead duties and ACES experienced a steady evolution for 24 years. Then in 1999, 2005, and 2009 we acquired Rock Bottom Ranch, The Catto Center at Toklat, and Spring Creek respectively. Now we have a team of “horses.” As we strike out to search for a new executive director, complemented by my new lead ecologist role, we’re hitching that strong team to a wagon and taking ACES forward more effectively.
The new executive director and I will be climbing into the wagon seat together, she or he holding the reins, I with the trail map in hand. And we’ll succeed in advancing ACES to a new level of performance, I’m sure of that. I am looking forward to yet again being part of creating a new future for a great organization serving a very special community.      -  Tom Cardamone


ACES now seeks an Executive Director (ED) to serve as a chief executive to lead ACES’ growing organization and operations. Based in Aspen Colorado, ACES provides classroom and field-based environmental education, naturalist led programs and hikes, and public forums and lecture series. ACES’ four sites provide wildlife habitat and a crucial venue for restoration projects, sustainable agriculture, and environmental stewardship through direct experience. The ideal candidate will have at least 10 years of relevant experience and the desire to lead and grow an organization that can make a difference in the lives of others.
Click here for detailed job description.