LSU’s beautiful live oaks, blooming flowers and roadways and sidewalks are all overseen by one person in LSU’s facility services.
Ethan Mott is the horticulture, concrete and project manager. He is also serving as the interim manager of the arboriculture crew.
Mott has worked for LSU for nine years. He started as a horticulturist before becoming a manager four years ago. Mott works under Jeffrey Brocato, assistant director of landscape services.
“He’s an individual that has a true desire to make positive changes for LSU and for the campus,” Brocato said about Mott.
Mott’s passion and enthusiasm was evident as he talked about his responsibilities around campus. He said his job is rewarding because he gets to see new hires grow and build on their knowledge of plant material. He also enjoys seeing the joy it brings students.
“We’ve been planting zinnias at BEC a lot, which people seem to really like,” Mott said. “It’s always fun seeing everyone lined up looking at all the zinnias in front of the BEC. That’s what that crew is responsible for, bringing the color to campus.”
Mott graduated from LSU with a degree in plant and soil sciences. He originally worked for private businesses before he found out about a horticulturist position at LSU. He said when he was a student he didn’t know LSU had a landscaping division. The community and campus drew him back.
Mott oversees the crews for the trees, the concrete, and any flowers or ground coverings that are not turf. He is responsible for organizing and scheduling specific crews and communicating with the rest of campus. Brocato said that a lot of planning goes into running the different crews to manage the landscape.
“We pay a lot of attention,” Mott said. “We don’t want to interrupt y’all, We want y’all to enjoy it like Disney World, you don’t see us, but we’re there. We’re maintaining it.”
Mott said that they hold off on bigger projects if they can until the winter or summer breaks. During these times, the campus is less occupied, so they can work more freely. They also take precautions not to disrupt normal student life as much as possible.
Any work done near residential buildings involving loud machinery will not start until after eight o’clock in the morning. Mott said they try to be out of the quad by early in the morning as well. They keep track of what buildings are occupied and when to create their work schedules.
Mott’s crews will mulch, fertilize, put down pesticides, plant new flowers, maintain and repair the roads and trim trees. Work like this occurs year-round, and is not always an easy task.
Hurricanes and freezes can cause major issues for campus, and Mott’s crews help restore everything. Mott said Hurricane Ida was worrisome because it was forecast to take a similar path as Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Gustav devastated the campus. Thankfully, LSU was spared this time around, but the crews still spent days cleaning up.
“We filled, I don’t know the official counts on the tops of my head, 15-ish 30-yard dumpsters with debris,” Mott said. “It took us about five days to get this campus completely clean. And that’s all crews, all hands on deck, putting limbs on trailers and bringing it back here.”
However, Mott said the ice storm from last year was much worse for the plant life on campus. He said they lost several species of ornamental plants. To prepare for bad storms and hurricanes, crews put out sandbags and maintain a five to six man crew stay on campus during the storm. These individuals are responsible for clearing roadways for emergency vehicles
Natural disasters are not the only problem wreaking havoc on campus. Football games at home leave the campus looking trashed.
Two workers from Mott’s horticulture crew, Keith Roberson and Ronald Hebert, said that the people that come onto campus just do not care and tear the campus up. Come Sunday mornings, they have to clean up after everyone.
Mott said that litter on the campus, whether from sports events or everyday student life, can make the crews feel under appreciated or unnoticed. The trash ends up in the workers’ way and in their work area, and they have to dispose of it properly.
Despite these difficulties, Mott enjoys his position at LSU and plans to retire from here after 30 years.
“My favorite part of my job is seeing people enjoy the outside, seeing people enjoy what we’re working for, center themselves when their outside, hanging on hammocks in between trees, going up to the flowers at BEC and taking pictures with them, just seeing the students really enjoying it,” Mott said.