Warnke to Retire as Davey CEO after 44-Year Green Industry Career

Posted: April 27, 2017

Kent, Ohio – Karl J. Warnke, chairman and CEO of The Davey Tree Expert Company, has announced his intentions to retire as CEO effective July 21 following 37 years of service to the Davey Company.

Patrick M. Covey, current president and chief operating officer, will assume the CEO role upon Warnke’s retirement as part of the company’s executive succession plan. Warnke will continue as chairman.

“It truly has been a privilege to have served as president and then chief executive officer for the past 18 years,” Warnke said. “A well-seasoned management team with considerable depth and capabilities is in place and will ensure a new era of continued stability and steady advancement of the Davey Company.”

Warnke’s retirement comes at a time of sustained growth and prosperity for North America’s oldest tree care firm.

Under Warnke’s leadership, total annual revenue has grown from $308 million in 1999 to a forecast $900 million in 2017. During that same period, over 3,200 new employees were added to the company, expanding the employee base to approximately 9,000 in 2017. Davey’s “Vision 20/20” strategic plan, which was implemented during Warnke’s tenure as CEO, remains the focal point of Davey’s operational strategy and has placed the company on a projected path to reach $1 billion in annual revenue by 2019.

Davey has made 68 acquisitions since Warnke became president in 1999. The two largest acquisitions in company history came in 2008, one year after Warnke became CEO. Davey acquired The Care of Trees, strengthening its presence in the residential market, and Wolf Tree, bolstering Davey’s utility services division. Davey’s most recent acquisitions came this month when Arborguard, Inc., a residential and commercial tree care company based in Atlanta with operations in Charlotte, joined Davey along with Arborel Tree Service, a residential tree and lawn care company operating in Pittsburgh. The Davey Company is represented by 13 brands across North America.

An additional priority of Warnke’s tenure has been maintaining Davey’s strong employee-ownership culture. Davey is the 13th largest employee-owned firm in the U.S. and is the largest employee-owned company in Ohio. Davey has been employee-owned since 1979 and has shown increasing participation in Davey’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) over the past 38 years.

“The support of each and every employee shareholder is needed to realize the full potential of the Davey Company,” Warnke said. “Collectively, we are an irrepressible force.”

Warnke started his career in the green industry working for a family owned nursery operation. He joined Davey in 1980 in the West Cleveland Residential/Commercial office as a spray/feed technician. Later that year, he became a utility management trainee in the corporate office. This proved the first step up the Davey corporate ladder, and he has held progressive management and executive positions throughout his 37 years of service.

Warnke was promoted to utility operations coordinator in 1982, utility operations manager in 1984 and vice president of utility operations in 1986. He became corporate vice president and assistant to the president in 1987 with responsibility for operations support services. In 1988, Warnke was elected a company officer and promoted to corporate vice president and general manager of North American Utility services. He became executive vice president in 1993 and president and chief operating officer in 1999. Warnke was elected CEO in 2007 and named chairman in 2009. He served as president and/or chief executive officer for 18 years.

Warnke earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University School of Horticulture and is a graduate of The University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business executive program. He is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture, Utility Arborist Association and Tree Care Industry Association. He is an honorary life trustee of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, is a member of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce board of directors, The Conference Board’s Executive Council for Mid-Cap Companies and a board member on the compensation committee for Wikoff Color Corporation of Fort Mill, South Carolina.

The Davey Tree Expert Company’s approximately 9,000 employees provide diversified tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental services for the residential, utility, commercial and government markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Davey has provided Proven Solutions for a Growing World since 1880 and has been employee-owned for 38 years. For more information, visit www.davey.com.

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