Poff resigns as zoo director

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The Jackson Zoo’s longtime executive director is out of a job.

Today Director Beth Poff resigned as executive director, a position she has held for more than a decade.

She submitted a letter of resignation to Jackson Zoological Society President Jeffrey Graves.

In the meantime, Dave Wetzel, the assistant director, will serve as interim director, according to a zoo news release. Zoo operations will continue as is, and the park will remain open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the release states.

The decision comes days after the embattled director came under fire for dipping into state bond funds to cover the park’s day-to-day operations.

Society board members were expected to vote today on whether to retain her in the position.

The bonds were issued by the state help cover structural improvements at the nearly century-old zoo, but instead was used to shore up payroll.

In a letter to the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, Poff said the park had to dip into the funds because of declining revenues from ticket sales and from donors.

She said the funds were going to be repaid after the zoo received its bi-annual allocation from the city.

The zoo receives an annual allocation from the capital city each year to help shore up its budget. This year, the city awarded the zoo around $980,000, which is awarded to the park in two installments.

At a meeting last week, the city council voted to award an additional $200,000 to the zoo, to help the park remain solvent through the end of the budget year.

The budget year ends on September 30.

The society’s executive committee put Poff on administrative leave last week.

Poff declined to comment. 

In a statement, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba thanked Poff for her service. 

Zoo Board President Jeffrey Graves was not taking requests for interviews at press time.

Social

Madison-Ridgeland Academy had a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the opening of the new middle school building and dining commons.