As first reported by WFTV 9, Robert Bowden has suddenly announced that he will be stepping down from his role as Executive Director of Harry P. Leu Gardens.
Bowden, who has served as director for the past 29 years, will be retiring at the end of the month. Prior to his work at the gardens, Bowden served as Director at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Director of Horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Assistant Director/Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island.
“We appreciate Robert’s long tenure with the City and are grateful for his many contributions to the success of Leu Gardens. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”,– ALLEN JOHNSON, ORLANDO VENUES, CITY OF ORLANDO
At one time the City of Orlando’s Orlando Venues team had created an Assistant Director role to train a successor for Bowden, leading up to his retirement, but he was reluctant to let go of the reigns until recently, preferring to stay on and finish some long-standing projects. That successor, Keri Byrum, ended up moving to Iowa to become a hops farmer, and that role was never filled. As such, there is no trained replacement for Bowden in the gardens at this time.
A spokesperson for Orlando Venues shared that they are in the early stages of looking for candidates for the leadership team at Leu Gardens and hope to have someone in place sooner rather than later.
Full disclosure, Bowden took me on a private golf cart tour of the resident fairy doors in the gardens back in 2018 that you can watch below. Be sure to unmute.