Zoo Transition

Tulsa, OK – The newly formed not-for-profit organization Tulsa Zoo Management, Inc. (TZMI) has made headway in recent meetings as they move toward a potential private management structure for the Tulsa Zoo.

The board members nominated and elected officers, voting unanimously on each position. Serving as president will be Phil Lakin; vice president, Robert Thomas; and, secretary/treasurer, Stacy Kymes.

Committees were also formed that will focus on contract negotiations, operating, finance and long-range planning.

As recommended by the independent study conducted by Schultz & Williams, who has helped lead other zoos through privatization, a transition coordinator has been identified. Tom Baker, former Tulsa Fire Department chief and city councilor, accepted the position of transition coordinator for TZMI. Baker will be vital in assisting TZMI with the contemplated transition of the zoo into a public-private partnership. The City of Tulsa will still retain ownership of the Tulsa Zoo and TZMI will oversee and direct the day-to-day operations.

"Baker's skills and experience are unmatched in Tulsa," said Phil Lakin, TZMI president, "Tom is a lifelong Tulsan who is uniquely qualified, having served as deputy mayor, fire chief, and city councilor. His experience and his forward-thinking attitude will help ensure a smooth transition that will pave the way for much-needed stability and growth at our Tulsa Zoo."

Baker is also eager to see the Tulsa Zoo move toward becoming the community asset Tulsa deserves.

"The Tulsa Zoo is truly a significant part of what defines the quality of life of Tulsa and even surrounding communities," said Baker. "I am grateful to be part of this exciting time in zoo history and look forward to working with the TZMI board and staff to maximize opportunities to improve the zoo experience for guests and to ensure the Tulsa Zoo will be a place for its employees to prosper while doing the jobs they love."

The top priorities for the board to address will be negotiating the comprehensive management contract between the City of Tulsa and TZMI and the best manner to effectively transition employees so that all work under a single TZMI umbrella.

The board will meet regularly, working closely with Baker to effectively move Tulsa Zoo privatization forward. The board will also work to provide an aggressive strategic plan for the future, including adequate funding for the zoo which will provide for better facilities.

The zoo's transition to a public-private partnership is likely to be structured similarly to the arrangement entered into between the City of Tulsa, the University of Tulsa, and Gilcrease Museum.