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Joel Horwedel has been named as the new executive director of Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center. Chris Young/The State Journal-Register.

New director named at Lincoln Memorial Garden

March 16, 2013 at 02:32 PM

The State Journal-Register

Joel Horwedel has been named the new executive director of Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center, replacing Jim Matheis, who is retiring in May.

Horwedel now is assistant to the executive director for the Illinois Audubon Society, where he oversees the day-to-day business of the statewide organization.

Previously, Horwedel worked as director of the Harrisburg Park District in southern Illinois and also for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“Over the years, since Jim (Matheis) first took the job, it’s gone more to the business side,” said Barbara Rogers, president of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation Board. “Of course we wanted someone with a naturalist background and an interest in education, but we also were looking for someone with experience in day-to-day business administration and fundraising.

“We think we found that with Joel.”

Horwedel said his experience prepared him for the position.

First up when he starts May 1 will be a review of the Garden’s master plan.

“It has been a few years since they opened it up and really addressed it,” he said. “We will cross off the things that have been completed, look at the (garden’s) goals and maybe re-evaluate.

“That will probably be one of our first endeavors.”

Lincoln Memorial Garden was founded just over 75 years ago on the shores of the newly constructed Lake Springfield.

Renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen designed the Garden at 2301 East Lake Shore Drive as a living memorial to Abraham Lincoln. It includes a nature center and gift shop.

Rogers said the Garden has expanded in recent years to include the Ostermeier Prairie Center and Cawley Meadow.

“Since the garden has gotten bigger, there has been more of a need to raise money to support the larger area,” Rogers said, noting that Horwedel’s experience working with a larger board of directors — with many voices and lots of ideas — was another plus.

The garden board has 30 members, making it similar to Illinois Audubon’s board of about 25.

Rogers said the position was widely advertised, but in the end, the best candidate was close by, already working in Springfield.

She also said the board was grateful to Matheis for staying on until a replacement could be found.

“Jim was good to give us long notice because it’s not easy to replace him,” she said.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

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