Minot zoo director new CEO at Great Plains Zoo

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Great Plains Zoo has a new leader.

Rebeka (Becky) Dewitz has been hired as the chief executive officer of the zoo and the Delbridge Museum of Natural History, the zoo and museum board of directors announced this afternoon.

Dewitz was the zoo director at Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota. She will start in Sioux Falls in late October. She is a South Dakota native and graduate of South Dakota State University, according to the news release.

Dewitz was hired after a national search that happened over seven months.

“She has accomplished so much in her 14 years at Roosevelt Park Zoo, including building a new lion and tiger exhibit. We know her experience and expertise will be a great asset to the zoo,” Jeff Hugunin, the chair of the zoo board said in the news release. “With her vision, commitment to conservation, and so many relationships within the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) community, she will clearly take the zoo to the next level.”

Hugunin also cited Dewitz’s successes in fundraising, navigating the Roosevelt Park Zoo through AZA accreditation, and guiding the Zoo’s recovery and subsequent development after the devasting floods in 2011.

The Roosevelt Zoo has 159 animals of 68 species, according to its website. The zoo had a 2019 attendance of 94,876.

The Great Plains Zoo has more than 1,000 animals from 137 species, according to its website. According to the 2018 Parks and Recreation Annual report, the zoo had an attendance of 271,280 in 2018.

Dewitz replaces former CEO Elizabeth Whealy who resigned abruptly in February. Whealy had been at the zoo since 2005.

“Coming from a zoo that is such an integral part of our City, it is so great to see the tremendous support from the City of Sioux Falls,” Dewitz said in the news release. “It will be a joy and an honor to use my passion and experience to be a part of the future growth and development happening there.”

The zoo’s interim CEO was Suzie O’Meara who Hugunin praised for her work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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