From 50 Years to the Future

by John Hawkins, President and CEO, The Club

It hardly seems like three years ago when we were honored to mark the Los Angeles Zoo’s 50th anniversary with a big cover story. It was fun to see how far the Zoo had come from its humble beginnings.

But now it’s time to look forward. And that’s what Denise Verret, the Zoo’s new Chief Executive Officer and Director, is doing.

Denise has been a big part of the Zoo’s awesome development for nearly 20 years. This groundbreaking City leader – first African American female in history to run an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – has big plans for the Griffith Park institution. (Did I mention she’s a Club Member?)

Denise has her eyes set on the 2028 Olympics – putting our best foot forward for the world to see. That’s what her strategic plan, now in the review stage, aims to do.

Our November 2016 cover story marking the Zoo’s 50th anniversary.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a world-class City having world-class institutions. The LA Zoo has come a long way under the previous Director, John Lewis, and Denise. It’s going to be fun watching the Zoo continue to blossom under her visionary leadership.

Congratulations, Denise, on your appointment to the Zoo, and continued best wishes.

Moving on to some sadder news: We have two passings to report. Retiree leader Tom Stemnock and active Park Ranger Capt. Albert Torres died within days of each other. They were both popular, as attested by the tributes people sent to us and wrote on Club social media pages.

I want to mention four other City on-duty passings that have occurred over the last year or so – Fredy Venegas, Public Works/Street Services, in June; Officer Esmeralda Ramirez, LAPD, also in June; Officer Juan Jose Diaz, LAPD (off duty but in a safety action), in July; and Traffic Officer Gregory Park, in July 2018. Officer Park was only the second Traffic Officer to die in the line of duty, after Traffic Officer Henry Medina, who died in 1997. We did a story on the 20th anniversary of Henry’s death in 2017. May they all rest in peace.

If those passings mean anything, it’s to be thankful for our blessings. I am thankful for my friends, my family … and all of you, Club Members.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

— John