The Foundation is thrilled to have Tom Dott, vice president of commercial banking at First Business Bank, join our board this month. Dott has more than 20 years of commercial banking experience. He served on the Board of Directors of the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society and serves in several leadership roles for the United Way of Dane County.
We recently sat down with Dott to talk to him about what he cherishes most about Wisconsin’s wildlife and public lands, and what he hopes to accomplish in his role on the board.
1. How did you develop your love for the outdoors?
I grew up in a small town in north central Wisconsin and spent a lot of time outdoors growing up as a kid. But in addition to that, I spent a lot of those years working on a dairy farm. I think the farming connection was always important in terms of the amount of time I spent outside.
2. What is it about the Foundation in particular that makes you excited to be on our board?
Over time I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the outdoors. Growing up, I hunted with my dad and spent time outdoors doing those types of things. I did a lot of fishing. When you’re young you just sort of take those things for granted just because they’re there and accessible. In addition to that, my wife and son and I bought a farm a year ago south of Mt. Horeb in Iowa County, which has a trout stream that runs right through the center. I’ve grown to love trout fishing. Being involved in the conservation of flora and fauna is pretty cool. My mother has always been an avid gardener, and so I think I also gained an appreciation for plants through her and have really come to appreciate a lot of the indigenous plants that we have here in Wisconsin. I just love being out, and seeing them and identifying them right at our doorstep.
3. What do you see as your specific role on the board and what would you like to accomplish?
In everything I’ve ever done, I’ve tried to be an ambassador. You have to be passionate about the cause, you have to be willing to talk about it, you have to be willing to spread the word and try to get others engaged. I also think there’s a whole other generation—I put myself in the Gen. X age group—that we need to engage more, as well as Gen Y, Millennials and all the way down. I have some pretty cool experience from some work I did about a decade ago with United Way creating an emerging leaders young professionals group that really is the next generation of things to come for United Way. Organizations always need to be cultivating that next generation and carrying that stewardship forward.
4. What do you think are some of the most pressing conservation challenges in the state?
I think it comes back to awareness. In my travels and in my experiences—and I saw this at the Zoological Society more on a global basis—people just are not really aware of the challenges that are out there. They’re not even aware of some of the super unique features that we have here in the state, whether it be flora, fauna, geography, geology or history. And these things are changing, not necessarily for the better.
5. What is your favorite place to be outdoors in Wisconsin?
I think it’s our farm. We’ve fallen in love with that kind of southwestern Driftless area of the state in part because it’s a real gem, and it’s close. Our farm is 32 minutes from our house here on the west side of Madison. We spend so much time down there. Just two weekends ago, I was out fishing one morning and two pileated woodpeckers were not 30 yards away from me, which we don’t see a lot of in southern Wisconsin. It’s just a little slice of heaven. It’s magical. We’ve been to a lot of different parts of the state and they all have their attractions and beauty, but this one is pretty near and dear to our heart.
6. In addition to fishing, what other outdoor activities do you enjoy?
I’m an avid cyclist. I had actually done a fair amount of racing in my younger years. I don’t race any more, but I do a lot of very long distance road cycling. We have three dogs and love to spend time at the farm outdoors with them. We have a 16 year old son and it creates a great opportunity for him to get some direct exposure to the outdoors, too.
7. Is there anything else you think our members should know about you as a member of our board?
I have always believed that anything you do as a volunteer has to be near and dear to your own beliefs and what you enjoy. You’ve got to be passionate about it and if you’re going to talk it, you’ve got to walk it. Passion is important.