Visitors to any of Yavapai College's six campuses and centers can't help but notice, exclaim then absorb with a deep breath and a 360-degree visual sweep the natural beauty that welcomes them.

They likely then ponder the time and care required to create and maintain such inviting outdoor spaces. They may even wonder whose toils are responsible for the kaleidoscope of colorful trees, plants, cacti and rocks blending perfectly with the buildings and walkways they adorn.

For those wondering, the man responsible -- the superintendent of YC's six-person landscaping crew extraordinaire -- is Mike Kervin. Now that you know his name, please join his YC family in thanking him for the beauty he surrounded us with and in wishing him a joyful and restful retirement. Mike is retiring on March 12, or as he put it, closing the door on 33 years of "never-ending chores."

David Laurence, Director of Facilities Management and Planning, thanked Mike for his tremendous contributions to the college environment and said he deserves to shed his many job responsibilities.

"Everywhere you look there is evidence of years of planning with beautiful grounds, inviting outdoor seating areas and trails to enjoy the college's outdoor space, Laurence said. " In addition to managing the grounds, Mike is also an expert on pest eradication or relocation. Anything from bees to mice, javelinas, squirrels, skunks and snakes, Mike has a knack for dealing with "critters" as he calls them. Lastly, Mike has done a fabulous job of keeping the college's campuses and center clear of snow. Mike will finally get to take a "snow day" after so many years of arriving in the middle of the night in wicked weather to help ensure the safety of the college community."

A man of few words who is more comfortable with his hands in the soil or cradling a root ball than he is talking about his experiences and contributions, Mike did suspend work on his final chore -- beautification of a landscape island near the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center – to answer a few questions from someone who is a huge fan of his work. Some of Mike's responses are paraphrased. Those in quotes are his words.

  1. Why are you retiring? "I told my wife (Julia, a YC alumna and second-grade teacher) last summer I was going to retire when the (new) soccer practice field and Verde Valley Campus greenhouse projects were done. They dragged on but they're done. She remembered."
  2. When did you start working at YC? I started in 1988 while taking architectural drafting and construction classes. "I was an assistant electrician for a while then I started doing the grounds. There were always more projects. That's why I stayed for so long (and gave up on architecture outside of freelance residential drafting). There were always new areas to improve."
  3. What is the most notable change in YC's landscape over the years. "The campus used to have massive lawns, acres of lawn. Over the years, we transformed the lawn areas into more of a xeriscape (saving a significant amount of water)."
  4. And? "Way back when people were hanging outside all of the time. That has changed pretty dramatically. People aren't into hanging outside. You rarely see someone sitting under a tree reading a book."
  5. How did you learn landscaping/xeriscaping? "You just start doing it. After a while, you know what doesn't work. You might try a few things new and sometimes it's successful and sometimes it's not."
  6. What was your landscape philosophy? "I tried to get totally away from the formal landscaping… nothing even, nothing in rows, nothing symmetrical and it just kind of works."
  7. What is one of your favorite projects? "The sculpture garden (south the YCPAC). It progressed in stages over the last 20 years or so. It used to be a campus dump – the place we put all the junk that we didn't know what to do with. It was the junkiest, ugliest place on the campus." (Now it's spectacular.) "The walkway pattern is like a labyrinth – infinite. There's no end to it" -- making it a good place to meander and meditate.
  8. Did you enjoy your job? "Yes. It was something real. You can actually see what you did."
  9. What are you going to miss about your time at YC? "I don't know yet." (Laughs.)
  10. What are you not going to miss? Campus snow removal. It could be pretty stressful. "One thing I'm really looking forward to is really being able to enjoy the snow."
  11. What was your favorite season on campus? "Fall. It's a really nice comfortable time. It's not cold."
  12. What did you do before you starting working at YC? I joined the U.S. Navy out of high school in Northern California. I was an aerial photographer for a (submarine-chasing) P-3 squadron. "That's where I got the flying bug." I was a photographer in the San Francisco Bay area after the Navy, but we escaped the population explosion and moved to Prescott – a town we had visited and remembered when we were on our honeymoon.
  13. What are your plans for retirement? Finishing our geodesic dome house in Williamson Valley.
  14. What else? Finish construction of an experimental aircraft to pilot and explore back-country airstrips and wilderness areas in the West.
  15. What else? Work on restoring 1968 and 1972 Volkswagon Beetles, a 1970 Volkswagon van and a 1964 MG.
  16. What else? Get a puppy.
  17. What's the story about the pear tree in front of the Prescott campus library that's dedicated to you? As part of the contract for the new library, most of the existing trees were to be left alone. That contract provision was ignored and every day another tree would be gone. To ensure the pear tree wasn't removed, I put a fence up around it. "I tried to save them all."
  18. Are you worried what will happen to YC's outdoor spaces in your absence? "No. I've been working on my successor, Jason Major, for 16 years. It's time for Jason to take over. He's paid his dues. But I am going to come back and check on him and the gang."