Dallas Zoo Welcomes First Female CEO in Its 135-Year History, Names Nine New Board Members

New Chief Executive Officer Lisa New took the helm of the Dallas Zoo earlier this month as the zoo looks to make its "next big leap."

The Dallas Zoo—the oldest and largest zoo in Texas—has welcomed its first female leader in its 135-year history and elected nine new members to its volunteer board of directors.

New Chief Executive Officer Lisa New took the helm of the Dallas Zoo on Jan. 15. The zoo announced New’s appointment in November after a comprehensive national executive search for a new CEO.

The new CEO joins the zoo after serving as president and CEO at Zoo Knoxville for the past decade.

According to Dawn Moore, chair of the Dallas Zoo Board of Directors, the new CEO is a well-respected and recognized leader among the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) community. New is serving as the chair of the AZA Board of Directors for a yearlong term.

Succeeds the late longtime CEO Gregg Hudson

New succeeds longtime Dallas Zoo president and CEO Gregg Hudson, who passed away in early 2023 after nearly 17 years in the post. The new CEO cites Hudson as one of her most influential mentors and aims to build on his legacy.

New said Hudson inspired her to “align my passion, profession, vocation, and mission; if you are good at it, if the world needs it, and you get paid for it, that’s not a livelihood, that is your purpose.”

“During my initial meetings with the search committee, it quickly became apparent that the Dallas team and I shared the same values,” the new CEO said in November. “That is, a strong commitment to the wellbeing of our animals, our staff, and our guests to foster a culture that engages our community and protects wildlife.”

New climbed the zoo ranks from an entry-level role on the Zoo Knoxville Conservation Science team. After gaining hands-on experience in animal care and welfare, she took on various leadership positions before being appointed president and CEO. Under her leadership, the Knoxville Zoo executed a strategic plan that included a sweeping campus redesign, a rebranding, a $39 million capital campaign, and some of the largest construction projects in the organization’s history, according to the announcement.

Now, New looks forward to bringing her comprehensive perspective to Dallas, saying, “It’s a great honor and responsibility to be entrusted with the legacy that is [the] Dallas Zoo.” 

Board Chair Moore says New has the “ideal mix of skills” to take the zoo to the next level. New’s “commitment to creating destination experiences that inspire people to care about animals aligns perfectly with the Dallas Zoo’s mission of engaging people and saving wildlife,” the zoo said in an announcement.

In a recent opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News, three Dallas Zoo board members wrote that the 106-acre park founded in 1888 is now ready for its “next big leap,” noting that “the zoo will soon begin implementing a master plan worthy of its historic impact on southern Dallas.”

Dallas Zoo elects new volunteer board of director members

The Dallas Zoo board, which consists of several dozen people, brings together experience from their corporate, non-profit, philanthropic, and volunteer efforts to assist with high-level strategy, oversight, and accountability for the organization.  The new directors, spanning sectors from legal to financial to technology, were named in December.

Here are the new members of the Dallas Zoo board of directors:

  • Bill Evans, philanthropic leader
  • Marena Gault, philanthropic leader
  • Xavier Henderson, chief development officer, For Oak Cliff
  • Grafton Ifill, III, market team lead, J.P. Morgan Chase
  • Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO, Kanarys, Inc.
  • Ivan Roussev, sr. manager, machine learning and AI, Ernst & Young
  • Debbie Ryan, partner, Squire Patton Boggs
  • Alicia Voltmer, shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Chuck Whitten, philanthropic leader

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