City announces Park and Zoo leadership changes
Independence City Manager Kelly Passauer has announced staffing changes in the City’s Park, Zoo and Cemetery Department, in light of the pending retirement of Director Barb Beurskens. Angela Anthony has been named Park and Zoo Director and will join the City staff on November 16. Katie Southworth has been promoted to the role of Assistant Park and Zoo Director, under the City’s new reorganization plan.
Anthony is currently employed as a high school science teacher in Copan, Oklahoma, but brings previous experience working as a park ranger and manager of visitor and volunteer services with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service at Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge near Okmulgee, Oklahoma. She has dual master’s degrees in Biology and Entomology and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She has served as an adjunct professor of Biology at Rogers State University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and served four years as a combat medic with the United States Army, including a deployment to Afghanistan. Anthony’s other experience includes participating in a volunteer study program with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Brazil; working with the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma; volunteering as a map editor for the United States Geological Survey; and participating in an Oklahoma State University field study of the American Burying Beetle.
Following a few weeks of orientation, Anthony will effectively assume all Park and Zoo director’s duties on December 18, upon the retirement of Beurskens, who will conclude a 40-year career with the City of Independence working in various positions. The director’s position includes administration of all operations of Riverside Park, Ralph Mitchell Zoo and Mount Hope Cemetery, including staffing; budgeting; maintenance of all facilities; managing zoo animal welfare; coordinating special events; and interfacing with the community.
With her experience and interest in education and public service, Anthony said she would like to expand the park and zoo’s emphasis on public education and engagement programs.
“I take being a public servant extremely to heart,” Anthony said. “As a public organization, we are there to serve the people. We must serve our community fairly, consistently and tirelessly.”
Another key objective in the coming years, Anthony said, will be moving the zoo toward accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), recognized as the “gold standard” for zoo operations of all sizes in the United States.
Anthony and her husband, Trevor Anthony, have a 2-year-old daughter, Amelia, and plan to relocate to Independence from Copan in the coming months.
Southworth will serve as Anthony’s second-in-command in her new role as Assistant Park and Zoo Directory. In this capacity, she will be responsible for supporting the director’s functions, with particular emphasis on zoo animal husbandry and management and development of animal exhibits and all park and zoo property. Southworth will have a role in community relations and fund-raising, as well as strategic planning, budgeting and personnel management.
Southworth has been employed with the City of Independence since 2008, when she joined the zoo staff as a hoofstock keeper. In 2013, she was promoted to the role of Zoo Supervisor. She has been instrumental in park and zoo operations, including oversight of animal husbandry and involvement in multiple improvement projects, such as the extensive renovation of Monkey Island, completion of new hoof stock catch pens and renovation of the tortoise and donkey exhibits. She routinely interfaces with the FORPAZ community fund-raising organization and leads special community activities, such as the annual Zoolloween event.
Southworth’s previous employment included working as the Guest Services Team Leader for Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. She has a bachelor’s degree in Zoo Science and also has completed the University of Kansas Certified Public Manager Program. She participates in continuing education through the San Diego Global Academy, which offers courses specific to parks and zoos.
Passauer said, under the City’s reorganization plan to enhance efficiency and prepare for the future, the position of Zoo Supervisor will not be backfilled. She anticipates significant accomplishments under Anthony and Southworth’s leadership.
“I believe Angela and Katie will make a great team,” she said. “In addition to keeping the Park, Zoo and Cemetery beautiful and well maintained, another priority goal will be to pursue AZA accreditation for Ralph Mitchell Zoo. A secondary project will be the automation of cemetery records.
“At the same time, we are sad to see the departure of Barb Beurskens, who has done an amazing job at the Park and Zoo over the last 10 years and has completed many improvement projects and laid the groundwork for AZA accreditation by establishing new standards for animal care and enrichment.
“She has set up this new team for success, and we are excited to see what Angela and Katie can accomplish in the coming years.”