The following individuals have volunteered to serve as mentors for the Professional Mentor Program. These industry leaders bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to this program. Learn more about these individuals who will be excellent resources to help guide you as you work to address your top business challenges.

Rick Arena, CIC, CID, CLIA

Rick Arena’s “career in water” began in 1980 as a supervisor for a municipal water authority and during his college years while working for a local landscaper.
In the mid-80s, Arena started an irrigation design/installation company and pursued education through college engineering courses and the Irrigation Association. Since 1995, he has worked in distribution, sales, design and training. He is currently the senior training manager for SiteOne Landscape Supply.
Arena has always maintained a passion for all types of learning, be it technical knowledge, practical skills or business acumen. He considers teaching and coaching as an opportunity and a privilege to share knowledge with others.

Tom Childers

Tom Childers is currently the executive vice president, sales and marketing at Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply. He has been in the green industry for over 35 years. In that time, he has worked in contracting, distribution and manufacturing, but he considers distribution his real home.
Starting as an irrigation salesperson, Childers has spent over 20 years managing functional marketing and sales. Sales process and performance management are two areas he considers specialties. With regard to marketing, he considers himself a 360-degree digital evangelist with a direct marketer’s approach — build the brand while ringing the register.
Childers considers mentoring and giving back the fun and rewarding part you get to do in the fourth quarter.

Kevin Gordon

Kevin Gordon’s career in the irrigation industry began in 1984. He started in sales with Weathermatic and joined Rain Bird in sales and then product management.
In 1996, he joined Hunter Industries as a product manager and transitioned to director of lighting sales when Hunter acquired FX Luminaire. He returned to irrigation in 2017 as director of irrigation marketing for Hunter, leading product development and technical service.
Gordon holds an MBA from the University of Colorado and has been a Texas licensed irrigator since 1985. Through his travels and career, he has had the opportunity to experience industry practices worldwide.

Chris Keating, CID

In his over 47-year career, Chris Keating has held positions as a contractor, in distribution sales and management, and most recently as district sales manager for The Toro Company. He’s also owned and operated businesses outside of the industry.
Keating has created and presented business and technical sessions at numerous industry events. He has extensive volunteer experience serving both state associations and with the Irrigation Association and has received an award for his education outreach.
Most recently, he has been a mentor for the U.S. State Department’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. This experience has motivated his participation in the IA’s mentor program.

Kevin McRae, CIC, CLIA, CPP

Kevin McRae has degree in geology and began his professional career in the petroleum industry as a geophysicist. He made some major life changes in 2002 and began working in the green industry.
In 2005 McRae founded K2 Irrigation Services Inc., and he continues to lead this organization as its president.
He has been involved in the irrigation industry locally, regionally and nationally. He has worked with county extension agents, is a former president of the Carolinas Irrigation Association and has served on various IA committees.
McRae is the current event chair for the Asheville Walk to End Alzheimers and volunteers at his children’s schools.

John Newlin, CIC, CIT, CLIA

John Newlin has worked in the irrigation industry for over 29 years, specializing in efficient irrigation systems. He is the owner of Quality Services, a business offering services in irrigation, installation and lawn fertilization.
Newlin was an early proponent for the use of service software, water-efficient irrigation components and Wi-Fi controllers. He is now focusing attention on robotic mowers and mentoring as complements to his business.
He has been a trainer for J.R. Huston Consulting and is involved in the Ohio Irrigation Association. Newlin has volunteered on numerous committees and as an instructor with the Irrigation Association and serves as IA president in 2022.


Eric Santos has a degree in agricultural engineering and has worked with BrightView Landscape Services since 1994. He currently oversees irrigation and water management services for BrightView and leads the organization’s Irrigation Advisory Network and Irrigation Training Program.
Santos has volunteered his time and expertise with the Irrigation Association for many years and currently serves on the board of directors. He is also involved with the California Landscape Contractors Association and serves on the Latino Landscape Network Board of Directors for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Santos holds numerous industry credentials and certifications, further demonstrating his commitment to professional development.