Barry Schneider, President
Barry is a partner in one of the most successful landscape architecture and construction firms in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. His long interest in landscaping began during his childhood in Easton, PA, when he discovered a talent for growing plants. While studying landscape design and contracting in Florida, Barry started his own residential design/build landscape company. Wanting more challenges and excitement, Barry relocated to Atlanta to join one of the largest commercial landscaping companies in the Southeast. While there, Barry was given the opportunity to move to the Washington, DC area and head a start-up design/build residential branch. Barry grew this operation into a successful and profitable organization.
In 2002, armed with 25 years of experience which included his collective wisdom from his first solo venture and years with some of the biggest landscape contractors in the country, Barry knew he was ready to go out on his own again. Partnering with Howard Cohen, Registered Landscape Architect, they founded Surrounds. “Our goal at Surrounds,” Barry says, “is to turn all of our clients into raving fans.” Barry oversees the business end of Surrounds but still keeps in touch with his landscaping roots by regularly visiting the various job sites to ensure the work is completed with the high-quality standard that is the Surrounds signature.
Barry has three daughters and is an avid sailor and snowboarder.
Howard Cohen, Vice President, Professional Landscape Architect (PLA)
In 2002, Howard joined forces with Barry to co-found Surrounds. Howard says he came into his career somewhat by accident, but it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He grew up in the Baltimore suburbs and thought he would like to be an architect. Halfway through college, he concluded that although he loved the idea of architecture and buildings, his true calling was landscape architecture. As a child, he grew cacti, tended a vegetable garden, pruned plants for people, and had a pretty good ability to draw. “I was a landscaper,” he said, “but I just didn’t realize it.” Howard graduated with honors in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia and returned to Baltimore. He met Barry at a Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) meeting and took the opportunity to show off his portfolio of drawings. Barry hired Howard on the spot and the two have been working together ever since.
Kevin O’Connor, Sales Manager
Kevin O’Connor, our new sales manager, earned his degree in horticulture and landscape design at Virginia Tech. He began his career in 1993 with an ambitious goal: to start his own business. But he knew he would have to spend a few years to learn a few things before he could do that.
For his first job out of college, Kevin took a position as a crew supervisor with a large commercial landscaping company called Scapes—where, as it happened, Barry Schneider was the branch manager.
After 18 months there he was offered a management position with Wheats, a residential landscaping company. He decided to pursue the opportunity to advance his career and broaden his industry experience.
Over the next two years, Kevin had learned enough to set off on his own. He teamed up with a buddy from his previous employer and in 1996 started his own residential landscaping company with a focus on high quality horticulturally correct services.
Fourteen years later, Kevin had bought out his partner and grown the business by 60% when, out of the blue, came an offer to sell the company. Although he loved what he was doing, the offer was too good to turn down. He thought the proceeds from the sale would make a very nice nest egg in support of the long-term financial security of his family.
After enjoying an extended period of “me” time and a lot of golf, he hit the job market again and was quickly offered the opportunity to start the outdoor living division for a large business to business sales company.
Chad Talton, Professional Landscape Architect (PLA)
It was a great day for Surrounds when Chad became part of the team. After a few meetings, it was evident that Chad had the ability and high style to create the award-winning quality outdoor environments that is the Surrounds signature. Since joining Surrounds in the Fall of 2006, Chad has quickly built a reputation for himself with his artistic skills that enable him to transfer a client’s dream into reality. From the drafting table to field supervision, Chad maintains a focus on the integrity and details of design in order to fulfill the singular vision of Surrounds environments. Chad is a Registered Professional Landscape Architect in both Virginia and Maryland.
Eric Venclik, Professional Landscape Architect (PLA)
Eric Venclik joined the Surrounds design team in January 2019. Formerly, as an associate at a high-end boutique landscape architecture firm, Eric devoted over ten years of his professional career to envisioning outdoor spaces that enhance human-nature connections and evoke a personal sense of place. He relies on his comprehensive design and construction expertise and passion for the outdoors to create rewarding experiences for his clients. Although Eric grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, he is a Canadian citizen by birth. And being a true Canadian he is a passionate outdoorsman who makes annual pilgrimages to the north country for hunting and fishing. He says that one of the highlights of his youth was the six-weeks-long backpacking and hiking tour of Alaska he took with his grandfather. Eric lives with his wife Amy in a farmhouse in Marshall surrounded by 140 grassy acres populated by a roving herd of cattle.
Alexandra Trofimov, Junior Landscape Architect
Alexandra’s journey into landscape design began at age thirteen. She responded to a call for volunteers to help at her school’s nursery during a cold, snowy Russian winter and fell immediately in love with the plants. She decided then that she would become a landscape architect. Alex received her master’s degree in landscape engineering from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow where she earned the distinction of being the youngest participant in the Russian National Landscape Architecture Awards (her design placed 3rd). She traveled to the U.S. to continue her education at Cuyamaca College in San Diego. There she earned a certificate of achievement in landscape design and won multiple awards in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition. Alex loves the outdoors and keeps busy with hiking, camping, and snowboarding. Her favorite sport, however, is spearfishing—something she picked up while living in San Diego.
Garden Management Associates
Thomas Strange, Department Manager
Growing up in a rural part of the eastern shore of Maryland, Thomas was introduced to horticulture at an early age. He spent his summers working on tree and shrub farms where he learned how to care for plants from propagation to maturity. Using his base in horticulture and education in business management, Thomas went to work for a nationally recognized home builder. He started as an assistant supervisor and continued upward to become the Mid-Atlantic regional manager. He oversaw employees in the landscape maintenance and design-build departments producing a volume of $11M per year. In time, however, the mass production approach to landscaping, although very well done, began to feel less exciting to him.
Thomas admits that he and others at his company used to scour the Surrounds website for ideas when they installed a new property. When he saw there was a department head position open, he leapt. He says, “What drew me to Surrounds was the calibre of work they are known for. You are working with top architects and maintaining award winning projects. It’s the best of the best.”
In his spare time, Thomas likes to be out in nature–preferably on water canoeing, kayaking, or sailing.
Phil Lavezzo, Garden Manager
While serving as a Police Officer for 10 years, Phil was approached by a childhood friend to partner in a landscaping business. Although he loved being a police officer, the idea of being self-employed appealed to him even more. Wanting to pursue his dream of self-employment, he decided to enroll in the Graduate program at the distinguished U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received his Graduate degree in Horticulture and teamed up with his friend full-time. After 2 years, he bought his friend out of the company and spent the next 22 years building a successful landscape management business. His portfolio expanded to 240 residential customers and 18 commercial accounts.
In 2018, Phil decided to cash in on all that success. He sold his lucrative business, retired, and traveled the world for 2 years. Once all that excitement quieted down, he realized he missed his passion, the love of plants and landscaping. He decided to return to the workforce and share his vast knowledge of landscaping. He joined a large, highly successful commercial landscape maintenance company. Things went very well for him there, but he missed that interaction with residential customers, as opposed to dealing strictly with property managers.
Phil joined Surrounds Landscaping in July 2020, for their high-end residential maintenance work. He has been extremely impressed with their vision and quality of work. He enjoys the Surrounds team for their full knowledge, high standards and work ethic.
Edward Irvin, Irrigation & Lighting Specialist
Irvin ( he goes by his last name) has worked on machinery since he was a teenager. He is one of those gifted types who can pretty much troubleshoot and fix anything. “If it is mechanical or electrical, he says, it pretty much makes sense to me.”
He got his initial training in automotive mechanics at Job Corps at the Department of Labor and spent six years of his professional life as an automotive mechanic. Since then, he has invested in continuing education in multiple trades. He says that he collects certifications like some people collect trading cards. In the process he has broadened his skill set by learning on the job, taking positions as a carpenter, welder, auto body repair tech, and PLC technician (wiring and programming of logic controllers on industrial machinery).
Before joining Surrounds, Irvin worked for two years at a large commercial landscape company as an irrigation technician. He couldn’t get used to the impersonal feeling he got from working in a corporate environment at a large company. Surrounds is the opposite of that for him. The first person he met was the company president who took a genuine interest in him during the interview. He took the job.
Joe Giglio, Garden Manager/Production Manager
Joe Giglio performs dual roles as a garden manager and production manager. He personally oversees crews assigned to a small group of Maryland clients and is in charge of scheduling crews companywide. In his daily briefing, he reviews tasks, confirms job locations, and advises personnel of client requests and special work orders. He makes sure that field techs have the tools and materials they need before they set out for the day. Joe is a VNLA (Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association) certified horticulturist and certified IPM (integrated pest management) applicator.
Gardening and landscaping have always been a passionate hobby for Joe. Although he spent considerable time in the manufacturing and construction sectors, his desire to make his living outdoors eventually won out. He built his professional profile in the Charlottesville area gaining experience in both residential and commercial landscaping. Before coming to Surrounds Joe was Head Gardner & Job Manager for J.W. Townsend, a premier high-end firm in Charlottesville. Joe is a perfectionist. “I live to make people happy”, he says, “and I love working with my hands. It makes me feel good about myself”.
When he can find the time, Joe loves to go out deer hunting and trout fishing. And he loves teaching his son and daughter about camping.
Landscape Construction Associates
Jesse Edwards, Senior Advisor for Production & Chief Estimator
Jesse’s career path demonstrates that he is unusually comfortable with change. Initially, he attended West Virginia University to study computer and electrical engineering, then discovered that he was uninspired by those areas of study. Jesse then decided to change his major to Landscape Architecture. While studying landscape architecture, Jesse finally found something he could get passionate about. In 2008, he completed an internship with Surrounds and never looked back. Graduating in 2010 with his bachelor’s degree, he accepted a full-time position with Surrounds as a landscape technician and quickly moved up to foreman. In 2012, the company brought Jesse indoors where he could apply his computer and design skills working as an assistant landscape architect. In 2014, Jesse began assisting the production department with purchasing and analytics. He is now Operations Manager for the construction division of Surrounds, helping to manage schedules and crews from behind the scenes. Jesse’s talent for critical thinking and his ability to hear the opinions of others is a key factor in the success of the department. Jesse believes, “I’m not telling my managers what to do. I’m working with them to come up with a plan.” In his free time, Jesse enjoys spending time on his hobbies and working on revitalizing his 1900s farmhouse with his wife.
Francisco Arana, Production Coach
Francisco grew up in Northern Virginia. Upon graduating High School, Francisco started working for a foundation repair contractor and worked there for 11 years before joining the Surrounds Team. With his previous employer, Francisco started as a laborer, worked in different departments of the business, and ultimately became the Production Manager in 2012. Francisco believes the idea that you can never settle, and should constantly look for ways to improve yourself and the team you are leading. It would be this mentality that landed Francisco at Surrounds where he leads and assists our Job Managers and Construction Crews on their daily and upcoming projects. Francisco truly loves working with homeowners and focusing on the high level of customer service they deserve. In his free time Francisco enjoys traveling, attending concerts and is an avid Washington Capitals fan.
Andrew Childs, Job Manager
During his 2nd semester at Penn State, Andrew took a History of Architecture course that stirred his interest in landscaping. He was inspired by the different design styles and environments that designers have created throughout history. Andrew himself wanted to be a part of history. However, rather than draw the idea, he wanted to be able to dig in and actually build it. Andrew recalls, “I knew I didn’t want to be indoors sitting at a desk.” He graduated from Penn State in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Contracting, with a focus on the design/build aspect of the industry. He then began his career at Surrounds as a foreman-in-training and is now a Job Manager. Andrew is a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT). Andrew enjoys the challenge of getting the grading just right when laying patio surfaces, especially around pools. It is a tricky process of digging, layering, leveling, and setting pavers that must be perfectly installed throughout each step. He says his schooling gave him the necessary foundation in theory and industry standards. Yet, through the experience of doing the work season after season, he has gained the ability to troubleshoot and solve problems in real-time. Outside of work, Andrew enjoys spending time with his girlfriend in their newly purchased home.
Oscar Cruz, Job Manager
Oscar was working as a mason for a construction company when he met Barry Schneider. He began subcontracting for Surrounds and after one year, Barry offered Oscar a full-time position. Right away, Oscar began to learn different techniques and new skills as a landscaper. When there was not stonework to do, Oscar pitched in on the landscaping crews. Soon, he was promoted to Subcontractor Supervisor, a position in which he managed major construction details such as fireplaces, grill stations, and outdoor kitchens. He has become an essential member of the Surrounds team. Oscar reflects, “I feel lucky to have found Surrounds. I have grown. I am better at what I do now and I can make good decisions.” Oscar devotes his weekend time to his wife and three little girls. He says that being a father has been a learning experience and that his children are very smart. He acknowledges, “They make me grow, too.”
Dave Larson, Job Manager
Dave earned a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Contracting with an emphasis in design/build from Penn State University in 2013. He tossed his graduation cap into the air and before it hit the ground, he was at Surrounds starting his career. Dave is a Certified Landscape Technician (CLT) with a specialty in hardscape materials and techniques. He says the DC area has provided him the opportunity to gain extensive experience working on complex landscape projects that are rare in other areas of the country. He is passionate about designs of all types and brings his design background to his role as a Job Manager. Dave says it gives him a better understanding of the architect’s intention when he reviews plans. Some of Dave’s strengths are listening and connecting with homeowners. He explained that “once a job is sold by the architect, I am the face of the company. I see the homeowner every day. That is one of my strong suits, being able to talk to them and bring their thoughts and concerns to the designer.” He has come to realize that working with plants and being outdoors is what matters most to him, in addition to, “taking a blank slate landscape and cultivating it into something that will change the way the client lives in the outdoors.” Dave enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, especially when they are all kayaking together.
David Platas, Job Manager
David grew up in Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. He remembers every day when school let out, he and his friends would go to the ocean or swim in the nearby river. Before his time with Surrounds, David was employed as a mechanic’s assistant at an auto maintenance shop specializing in Mercedes and BMWs. However, working indoors did not suit him. When his brother, Juan, invited him to apply for a position at Surrounds, David did not hesitate. He started as a landscaper in 2010 and seized each opportunity to learn new skills and take on increasing responsibility. In time, he moved up to assistant foreman, then foreman. Now he is a Job Manager. He says, “This is a company where, if you want to learn, they will teach you.” David enjoys laying out patios and driveways because there are so many details and because the work requires meticulous planning. He receives much satisfaction after seeing a job come to fruition and the clients smile at their new outdoor environment. David spends his free time with family and enjoys attending weekly Bible study with his wife and son.
Brian Rehak, Job Manager
Brian started out with Surrounds as a construction technician in 2018. A year later, after completing Surrounds’ rigorous management training program, he was promoted to job manager with the construction team. His first jobs were small in scope but he quickly graduated to managing projects with six-figure budgets and four to six months of construction time.
At the outset of each project, Brian meets with the landscape architect to make sure he understands the vision they are trying to achieve, then communicates that vision to his crew and takes responsibility for its fulfillment. His objective is to make the process roll out as smoothly and predictably as possible so he arrives at a successful project with a happy customer at the end.
Prior to arriving at Surrounds, Brian had been a field supervisor with a foundation repair company. The construction knowledge and skills he acquired there over a ten year period were readily transferable to running a landscape construction crew. He says the difference between these two worlds is vast. Nobody gets excited about having to fix their foundation. But the work he does for Surrounds customers brings a level of aesthetic pleasure and gratification unlike any other job he’s done: “It’s amazing to see a big muddy mess be turned into a beautiful environment that the people are going to enjoy for the rest of their lives. It’s something where you go, Wow, guys, look what we did!”
Administrative Support Staff
Louanne Sigler, Office Manager
When asked about her attitude towards work and professionalism, Louanne does not hesitate to credit her dad as being her most important influence. She recalls, “All of my business aspirations came from him. He did not have a college degree and he was very successful. Just watching how he prepared for a sales meeting gave me the idea of the kind of professional person I wanted to be.” Louanne is a graduate of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia and a Delta Sigma Phi. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Louanne spent ten years working as a production coordinator in different industries. Her position at Surrounds draws upon her business background. Here she is assists with finance, accounting, and human resources. Looking back over her career she says, “I realize how much I care about the companies I work for. It is really important to enjoy who you work with. I think that makes a huge difference.” In her free time, Louanne enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. She especially enjoys cooking and baking for her friends and family.
Mike Flickinger, Controller
Mike graduated from the University of South Carolina where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Management. Before joining Surrounds, Mike worked in contract accounting in the rent & royalty department of a global food service management company. He also served a year in AmeriCorps as the volunteer coordinator at Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Montgomery County. Mike sees accounting as a process of reconstructing data to make it easy for a client or employer to understand and make use of that information. Mike spends much of his time outdoors. Some of his favorite activities are hiking, playing with his dog, and golfing. He has also developed an interest in woodworking and building. In fact, one of the reasons he joined Surrounds is because he liked the idea of working for a business that is actively engaged in creating, building, and enhancing the environment.