Great Bend Director of Public Lands Scott Keeler was obviously proud as he introduced Sara Hamlin to the City Council Monday night. Hamlin was just named as the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo’s new Zoo new supervisor/curator. “She has worked hard as a zoo keeper for us and has shown great understanding of the zoo world and an ability to lead others,” Keeler said. Keeler credits her leadership and ability to work with other division of the department and other city departments to help obtain the first United States Department of Agriculture inspection that has no deficiencies in over seven years.
“I am very proud to be a part of the zoo and the community,” said Hamlin who has worked at the facility for eight months. “We just want to give the community something to be proud of.”
She has nearly seven years’ experience at two Association of Zoos and Aquarium-accredited zoos. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology with emphasis in environmental biology.
“There have been a lot of changes over the last few years,” Keeler said. Most of these have been for the better, as evidenced by the USDA report and the hiring of Hamlin.
This was the first inspection Keeler had been involved with and he said he didn’t know what to expect. “I was sweating.”
Last year’s inspection included a new deficiency with expired medication in the medicine cabinet. There were also repeat deficiencies including rusted surfaces in animal pens that didn’t allow for adequate sanitization, lack a plan addressing the social needs of the zoo’s spider monkey, deteriorated resting surfaces for some of the big cats, gaps between the bottom of the perimeter fence and a sanitation involving flies in an inclosure.
As it turned out, he had nothing to worry about this year. “This is an indication we are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Keeler also thanked other city departments that have cooperated in improve the zoo. He sees a new era of communication and teamwork ahead as the zoo continues its focus on safety and taking care of the animals.
“We are making great strides,” Keeler said.
City Administrator Howard Partington credits Keeler with great leadership and “a willingness to move our zoo forward in many ways, with more great things to come.”
Hamlin originally hales from the Chicago suburbs, so being in Great Bend was a little bit of a culture shock.
But, she went to collage at Emporia State University and spent six and a half years working at the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, getting a taste of living in a more rural area. “I’m pretty accustomed to Kansas life,” she said.