NORFOLK — Norfolk Botanical Garden will soon be under new leadership, but will continue to blossom as it has for the past 85 years.
After nine years as president and CEO, Michael Desplaines is leaving the state’s largest botanical garden in late June for the CEO position at The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, California.
Under Desplaines’ tutelage, the nonprofit, which spans 175 acres and includes 65 themed gardens, has doubled the operational budget from $4.2 million in revenue in 2014 to $8.9 million in 2021 and increased visitation to more than 500,000 visitors annually.
Also under his guidance was the launch and completion of a $38 million capital campaign to plant and build The Garden of Tomorrow. The largest expansion in the Botanical Garden’s history, the immersive experience, which includes the Brock Parking Garden, Brock Entry Pavilion and the Perry Conservatory, a 26,000-square-foot four-biome conservatory featuring rare and threatened plant species, is aimed to connect more people to nature, create more educational opportunities and expand conservation efforts.
Desplaines wrote in his farewell letter that The Garden of Tomorrow, which is scheduled to open in early 2025, will undoubtedly stand as the opus of his career.
“While I look forward to my new work on the West Coast, NBG will always remain a very special place to me,” he said. “Until we meet again, be well and plant a better world.”
Peter Schmidt, chief financial officer and vice president of human resources, will step in on July 1 as the interim CEO while the board works on the next leadership plan.
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, firstname.lastname@example.org