Zoo hire

5/20/2014

New director stands ready to help attraction evolve.

New director stands ready to help attraction evolve.

Kristi Newland's path to director of Lee Richardson Zoo may seem to resemble that of her predecessor, Kathy Sexson.

Like Sexson, Newland had a long run in the business before being promoted from deputy director to the top spot at the Garden City zoo.

Newland brings nearly 30 years of experience to the job, including eight years at the local zoo. She was hired as the general curator in 2006, and promoted to general curator/deputy director in 2007.

She served as interim director when Sexson retired after 30 years of service.

Before becoming director of Lee Richardson Zoo, Sexson worked in the zoo's education division and served as deputy director.

So, while the two paths may be similar — both women logged a good amount of time here before becoming director — we'd expect Newland to do as Sexson did in bringing her own management style, enthusiasm and ideas to the position.

Zoos, after all, have to evolve. Doing so is a challenging proposition when you consider how the facility is more than an attraction that improves local quality of life and draws people to town.

Good, accredited zoos like the Garden City facility also play a critical role in education, conservation and preservation of animal species. Lee Richardson Zoo has a strong record of care, and has succeeded in adapting and creating habitats that closely resemble environments in the wild.

Newland will be expected to foster those aspects of the operation, while also contributing to fundraising efforts of the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo.

City officials conducted a nationwide search for the next zoo director, which was appropriate. The city had an obligation to make sure it reached far and wide in looking for the right fit for a venue that's a Garden City crown jewel.

In the end, the job went to someone familiar to city and zoo staff and the community as a whole — not to mention the many animals in residence at the local attraction.

Newland has been a positive influence for many years at the zoo, and we expect no less from her moving forward.

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