Sexson to retire in spring from zoo

1/8/2014

Director's last day scheduled for April 1.

Director's last day scheduled for April 1.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

After 30 years with Lee Richardson Zoo, Executive Director Kathy Sexson has decided to retire, effective April 1.

February marks Sexson's 30th year with the zoo and the city. She has served as director for nine years. Prior to her role as director, she worked in the zoo's education division and served as deputy director.

"Thirty years is a long time in one position, and I really enjoyed it. I just figured it was time to give myself a little break from the 24-7 demands of this type of position and dedicate a little more of that to family," she said.

Sexson had been considering retirement for some time, primarily due to some health needs of her parents back in Pennsylvania. While she doesn't plan to move there, she said she wanted to have the ability to help them out if needed.

"It's just a long way to go. I have a desire to spend more time with them while I have them, and to be able to help them out," she said.

Sexson expects the city will conduct a national search for her replacement and interview candidates to find a good cross section of interested applicants and will pick the best person for the job. Sexson may assist with planning the initial search process, but the interviewing of candidates will be left to the city manager by whatever method the city decides to use.

When asked what qualities she would look for in a zoo director, Sexson said the job is so varied it's difficult to pin down one skill. The director works with staff, volunteers, board members and donors, develops budgets, and has a knowledge of animals. Other skills include knowledge of fundraising, building and management.

"Being a good people person is important because that's what so much of it is about," she said. "You really need to be able to visit with people, promote the zoo and convey the importance of what we do."

Directors across the country come from many different venues, whether through the ranks of a zoo or a CEO position in some other field, she said.

In a press release from the city, Sexson said Garden City and the zoo have become her home, and the people of the city and the organization hold a special place in her heart.

"The Lee Richardson Zoo is truly a product of the wonderful support that it has received from the city of Garden City and the regional community," Sexson said. "The progress and changes I have seen occur over the years are nothing short of remarkable, and I am proud to have been a part of them. It has been an honor over the years to work with a staff possessing such passion and talent for their work, and the zoo's successes are a reflection of their dedication."

City Manager Matt Allen thanked Sexson for her years of service and wished her well in retirement.

"With 30 years of service to the city of Garden City and with an unbelievable passion for her co-workers, her volunteers, Lee Richardson Zoo and the zoo profession, Kathy has left an indelible mark on this community," Allen said.

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