The Sedgwick County Zoo is losing its longtime director.
Executive Director Mark Reed came to the zoo in Wichita in 1979 for what was supposed to be a short stint as assistant director before moving on to another zoo.
Instead, he stayed 11 years and then was promoted to director, and he never left.
When he retires on Dec. 31, Reed will have spent 37 years at the zoo.
"I look at all zoos as a reflection of the community, and this community loves the zoo," Reed says. "It’s been a great time here doing something for this community."
During Reed’s tenure, the zoo added 10 new exhibits, renovated four others and developed a master plan.
Reed says the opening of the new elephant exhibit in May was when he decided that he had reached the pinnacle of his career.
“It has been an honor to serve as your Sedgwick County Zoo’s Director for the past 37 years,” he said in a news release. “This chapter of my life has been extraordinary. For some time now I have been contemplating when to move on to the next chapter. With the safe arrival of our six new elephants and the opening of the Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley, it became clear that I had reached the pinnacle of my time here at the zoo. The relationships that have I have forged, and my love of this community will travel with me on my next adventure.”
Reed was exposed to animals and zoos at a very early age. His father, Theodore H. Reed, was the director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and often brought his son with him during rounds at the zoo.
“The thought of the Sedgwick County Zoo without Mark Reed is truly a difficult one to comprehend,” Mark DeVries, president of the Sedgwick County Zoological Society Board of Trustees, said in the release. “He has devoted a large portion of his career nurturing and building our zoo. His foresight and leadership has resulted in this zoo to be considered one of the best in the world. All of us owe Mark our utmost best wishes for developing this true community treasure that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
The Sedgwick County Zoological Society plans to begin a national search soon for Reed’s replacement.
Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.
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