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Hollywild's Meeks retiring, Atchley named executive director

STAFF REPORTS
Published on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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David Meeks, retiring founder of Hollywild Animal Park, passes the baton of succession to Tim Todd, board president, and then to Kim Atchley, named the park's new executive director.
 

Hollywild Animal Park

David Meeks, retiring founder of Hollywild Animal Park, passes the baton of succession to Tim Todd, board president, and then to Kim Atchley, named the park's new executive director.

 



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Kim Atchley holds Siri, a rare Syrian brown bear, born at Hollywild.
 
 

Hollywild Animal Park

Kim Atchley holds Siri, a rare Syrian brown bear, born at Hollywild.

 

 



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David Meeks holds triplet bear cubs born at Hollywild.
 

Hollywild Animal Park

David Meeks holds triplet bear cubs born at Hollywild.

 



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David Meeks, who was ill at the time, attends a memorial service for 28 Hollywild Park animals killed when a short ignited an electrical fire.
 

Hollywild Animal Park

David Meeks, who was ill at the time, attends a memorial service for 28 Hollywild Park animals killed when a short ignited an electrical fire.

 



Hollywild Animal Park’s founder and executive director is retiring and the board of directors approved a new leader.

David Meeks, 68, is retiring and Kim Atchley has been approved as the new executive director.

Park employees were notified of Meeks’s retirement plan Tuesday night during a staff meeting and the traditional passing of the baton to Atchley.

“In a relay race, the passing of the baton is the key to success,” Meeks said. “Each individual that carries it is expected to give their all toward the united goal of the team. When that baton is passed, it means one person has given all they had to give and now it’s another person’s turn to carry the team forward as far as they can.”

Atchley has spent the last six years managing communications and developing community partnerships.

Meeks’ plan is to step down in stages to allow for a smooth transition. He will continue to serve as Animal Care Department Manager until a replacement can be found later this year. He will manage this year’s Holiday Lights Safari Benefit for the Park, the event’s 25th anniversary. When the season closes, Meeks’s full retirement will begin.

“I’m 68 years old. Like most people my age, I’ve been thinking about retirement for a few years,” Meeks said. “Over two years ago I was asked by some students what my vision was for the park. But the fact is that what Hollywild is now, and has been for some time, has far exceeded any dreams I’ve had for it. That’s an amazing thing.

“I can let it go now because it has a life force of its own that isn’t dependent upon my efforts, but the efforts of our entire community,” Meeks said.

A deadly tragedy hit Hollywild in January. A fire in the primate barn killed 28 animals and injured another 13. Investigators ruled an electrical short sparked the fire. The animals – chimpanzees, baboons and lemurs – all died of smoke inhalation, according to investigators.

“This is the time for the community at large to embrace its ownership of Hollywild as the treasure it is,” Tim Todd, board president, said. “David and Lucia Meeks converted Hollywild to non-profit status sixteen years ago so that we would be prepared for this day.

The Board will launch its first annual campaign to support operations within the week and continue to build partnerships with area businesses.

“What we all know and love about Hollywild isn’t going to change – the close connection to these amazing animals and the experience that just can’t be found anywhere else,” Atchley said. “As with every community resource there are certainly ways to improve what we do, how we do it, and how we can make the Hollywild experience more accessible to all. I am humbled and thrilled to have this opportunity to make a difference and take on a new role as part of the heart of Hollywild,” Atchley said.

Longtime staff member Mary Lee Rollins will continue to serve as assistant executive director.

 

 

 

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