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Q&A: Jennifer Stringer

Jennifer Stringer, horticulturist for the City of Greenville, has been making the Camellia City a prettier, greener place for nearly 17 years now. Born and raised in Mentone in northeast Alabama, she and husband Russell, who met at Auburn, are the parents of six-year-old Brody.

Q: So, has horticulture also been an area of interest for you?
A: Well, I have always loved the outdoors. And I knew whatever I did with my life, it would involve the outdoors. Originally I hoped to be a park ranger-I have a forestry degree from Auburn-but went in a slightly different direction. I knew a lot about trees; I just had to do more intense study into flowers and shrubs, too. It’s fun and exciting to do different things around the city all year long.

Q: Working on the Christmas decorations around town has to be a huge undertaking. Give me an idea of what that involves time-wise.
A: It is, and it takes us about a month. We start by putting lights on the trees and checking them in late October and early November. Then as Thanksgiving approaches, we go ahead and put some of the decorations out so people can enjoy looking at the Christmas lights during that weekend. You know, it’s funny. People used to complain about us putting anything up before Thanksgiving. Now people will say, ‘Oh, aren’t you a little late this year?’ So attitudes have changed! (laughs) We do try to wait to fairly close to Thanksgiving to put them up, but we may start doing it a little earlier.

Q: How many folks are involved in the process?
A: I have a crew of six; we have two people from Buildings and Grounds who help us with the bucket truck and getting the pole decorations and such up, and the Street Department actually helps us set up the city tree and put it in the ground. So lots of people are helping, just depending on what we are doing at the time. And I have to say kudos to them all, because they work very hard. The crews really do love it and you have to, in order to do a really good job.

Q: I think the city Christmas looks particularly spectacular this year. The colors of the lights are so vivid! Tell me more.
A: Thank you! We used LED lights for the first time-6,000 just on the Christmas tree. They are a little more expensive, but they give off less heat, which is good for the trees, and use less energy-so you actually save money in the long run. And they really are beautiful. We hope to go to all LED lights next year, except for the pole decorations. You can also run more lines together without tripping with the LEDs, so they are just better all around.

Q: Do you feel a real sense of accomplishment once everything is in place and working properly?
A: Oh, yes. It’s a hectic time trying to get it all done. I spent time each night checking the lights. If something doesn’t look just right, we pull it out and change it. But hearing people’s positive comments really makes you feel good. The thing is, everyone can enjoy our Christmas lights, whether poor or rich or middle-class. Knowing how much they look forward to it each year makes it all worth it. They may not be able to afford to have a lot of lights at their house, but they can come downtown and enjoy the show. I’ve gotten good support from the mayor and council members along the way, too, and that helps.

Q: So, when you are not out ‘prettifying’ Greenville, what do enjoy doing?
A: I really enjoy horseback riding and kayaking. Also, we live out on Ridge Road and I enjoy being out in the country. I love to travel and see new places, although we haven’t done as much since Brody came along. I like to visit other communities to see what they are doing in terms of horticulture-that’s fun and interesting.

Q: Contrary to popular belief, you son is not named after Alabama’s Brodie Croyle, right?
A: (Laughs) Definitely not! We are super-big Auburn fans. And our Brody is spelled with a ‘y,’ not ‘ie.’

Jennifer Stringer, City of Greenville Horticulturist.