Applewood names new director of operations overseeing estate's historic grounds

FLINT, Michigan — After almost four decades working at Applewood Estate, Todd Bakos accepted what he described as his “dream job” when The Ruth Mott Foundation appointed him director of estate operations in December. 

Bakos began his journey at Applewood Estate when he was 16 and still in high school, hired by Ruth Mott herself, whom he calls “truly a genuine person who treated everyone with respect regardless of their status.” 

His very first assignment was to haul and spread a truckload of wet, stinky manure.

“That was my initiation,” Bakos says now with a laugh. “I had to move all that manure by myself with a pitchfork in the Rose Garden. After all that, I still came back to work the next day.” Thirty seven years later he’s still there, now taking over for Deb Elliott, who retired after 39 years at Applewood.

As director of estate operations, Bakos is a senior member of the Ruth Mott Foundation’s staff. In his new role, he will oversee and coordinate maintenance of Applewood, including the gardens and grounds, security and facilities.

Ruth Mott Foundation President Raquel Thueme said Bakos’ knowledge of the grounds and its needs is encyclopedic.

“Todd’s innovative ideas and creative and colorful landscapes illustrate his desire to showcase Applewood as a welcoming community resource — just as Ruth Mott intended,” she said. “He has spent a significant portion of his lifetime carrying out our founder’s wishes and has demonstrated himself to be an experienced and dedicated steward of Applewood’s resources.”

While it’s not always the “norm” for people to remain employed at on place for their entire career, Applewood is an anomaly. There you will find many of its employees are as rich with personal history and knowledge of the location and the foundation’s namesake. 

“It’s a beautiful place. It’s a peaceful place. It’s a place where history was made. It’s a place where horticulturists love practicing their art,” said Bakos, of Linden. “There are so many roots here – deep ones that have had an impact on our country. Why wouldn’t you want to spend all that time here?”

Read more articles by Ashley Schafer.

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