Spotlight: Tom Gilmore

An Audubon institution steps down after transforming the organization and the Garden State

Title: New Jersey Audubon president

Age: 65

What’s newsworthy: He is stepping down as president, effective April 2012

Why he’s a player: Gilmore, a former vice president and general manager at the Philadelphia Zoo, joined the state’s oldest conservation organization 28 years ago. When he assumed the post, Audubon had 3,000 members and a staff of 10. Today, it has 20,000 members and a staff of 80. Gilmore has been instrumental in passage of three landmark environmental laws: the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act; the Garden State Preservation Trust; and the Highlands Watershed Planning and Protection Act.

The wetlands protection law preserved thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands, which provide habitat to a wide variety of species. The trust fund helped protect hundreds of thousands of acres of open space. And the Highlands law helped safeguard drinking water for millions of New Jerseyans.

He knows how to get things done: Each of those laws required some very heavy lifting. Remarkably, the wetlands law was approved under the administration of former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, the trust fund under former Republican Gov. Christine Whitman, and the Highlands law under former Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey. Many regard this legislation as the singular achievement of each administration.

Yes, people pay attention to him: In 2009, New Jersey Monthly named Gilmore one of the 101 Most Influential People in New Jersey.

What others are saying about him: “His legacy, including thousands of acres of preserved wetlands, forests, wildlife habitat and natural treasures is huge and will be enjoyed by generations to come,” said Michelle Beyers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Equally inspiring,” she added, “thousands of families, students and young people have been introduced to nature by New Jersey Audubon’s nature centers and programs under Tom’s leadership.”

He finds time to write, too: A flyfishing buff, Gilmore is the author of three books on the subject: False Albacore, Tuna on the Fly, and the newly published Flyfisher’s Guide to the Big Apple, Great Waters within 150 miles of New York City.

He’ll still be around Audubon: Gilmore plans to serve as an advisor and ambassador to the organization. “When staff retire, the only difference is they stop drawing a salary,” he said.