Press release from The Texas Zoo
VICTORIA, TEXAS – The Texas Zoo Board of Directors has chosen William K. Baker Jr. as their new executive director.
Baker brings 23 years of zoological management experience and 30 years of experience within the field of animal sciences, combined with a deep passion for promoting animal conservation and community involvement.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bill as our new Executive Director,” said Sarah Hamman, Texas Zoo Board President. “He will bring experience, knowledge and a fresh air to our organization, which will help take our zoo to the next level. We feel very lucky to have found him and look forward to the new leadership he will bring.”
When Baker assumes the role of executive director on March 1, he will manage all day-to-day operations for the sole zoo within the Crossroads area. Baker will also lead fundraising programs, marketing and community engagement initiatives.
“I am very excited to be moving back home to my native Texas and to contribute to The Texas Zoo as it moves forward into a new era of growth to serve the region,” said Baker. “It is an honor and privilege to work with such a talented team and dedicated board.”
Baker most recently served as Executive Director at Animal Ark Wildlife Sanctuary in Reno, Nevada. His prior experience includes leadership roles with the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Gulf Breeze, Florida; the Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke, Virginia; the Abilene Zoo in Abilene, Texas; and the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, Texas. Baker earned his B.S. in wildlife management and participated in graduate studies at West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas.
Baker will oversee and spearhead the development and implementation of a new master plan for the zoo, a process that the organization plans to start within the coming months. In addition, Baker, along with a board-appointed committee, will manage various site and exhibit construction projects throughout the zoo with help from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed by the City of Victoria.
“The zoo is an important community resource for residents and visitors,” said City Manager Jesús A. Garza. “We look forward to working with the new executive director and the board of directors on the upcoming master plan and revitalization projects, which will help to fulfill the City’s goal of using ARPA funds for transformational projects with long-term benefits.”
Baker succeeds Interim Executive Director Katlyn (Kay) Irwin, the Texas Zoo’s education manager.
About The Texas Zoo
Located within Riverside Park, close to historical downtown Victoria, The Texas Zoo was founded in 1957 as the South Texas Zoological Society and was dedicated as the Official National Zoo of Texas in June 1984. The zoo’s longstanding mission is to foster stewardship and advance conservation in Victoria and the surrounding Crossroads area through education, recreation, sciences, and action.
The Texas Zoo is home to over 70 species of animals, most native to Texas and South America. Many of the zoo’s residents are rescue animals that could not be returned to the wild or are a part of nationwide conservation efforts to help protect and foster growth of the species. The zoo is known for its conservation work and involvement in several Species Survival Plans (SSP) – including for the red wolf and ocelot, both native to Texas.