The Board of Directors at Hollywild Animal Park in Inman, S.C. announced Wednesday that its founder and executive director, David Meeks is retiring.
“I’m 68 years old. Like most people my age, I’ve been thinking about retirement for a few years. Over two years ago I was asked by some students what my vision was for the park. But the fact is that what Hollywild is now, and has been for some time, has far exceeded any dream’s I’ve had for it. That’s an amazing thing. I can let it go now because it has a life force of its own that isn’t dependent upon my efforts, but the efforts of our entire community,” said Meeks.
Kim Atchley will serve as Meeks replacement. She spent the previous six years as communications manager at the park.
“In a relay race, the passing of the baton is the key to success. Each individual that carries it is expected to give their all toward the united goal of the team. When that baton is passed, it means one person has given all they had to give and now it’s another person’s turn to carry the team forward as far as they can,” said Meeks.
Hollywild’s directors performed a literal passing of the baton from Meeks to Atchley, a ceremony featuring a walking stick made in Africa depicting an eagle’s talon and an egg/ The eagle is a symbol for strength and leadership and the egg for the delicate nature of what it carries and the ability of something so strong to carry something delicate. It was a gift to the park from the partnership they formed this year with the Ukutula Reserve in South Africa.
“What we all know and love about Hollywild isn’t going to change- the close connection to these amazing animals and the experience that just can’t be found anywhere else. As with every community resource there are certainly ways to improve what we do, how we do it, and how we can make the Hollywild experience more accessible to all. I am humbled and thrilled to have this opportunity to make a difference and take on a new role as part of the heart of Hollywild,” Atchley said.
Meeks will continue to serve as Animal Care Department Manager until a replacement can be found later this year. He will manage this year’s Holiday Lights Safari Benefit for the Park for this, the event’s twenty-fifth anniversary, after which he will be fully retired.
“This is a landmark in the history of the park, second only to its creation. David will now have the opportunity to see his life’s work continue while pursuing other interests. Kim has brought new ideas and a fresh approach to what we’ve built over the years. She’ll lead us all forward. This is an exciting time for us,” Assistant Executive Director Mary Lee Rollins.
Board President Tim Todd and Board Member Tiffany Hughes outlined the non-profit operation model for employees when they met for the announcement.
“We realized that for many on staff, they knew their job, but may not have known how that related to being a non-profit organization and what that really means within the community. We’ve been emphasizing the Heart of Hollywild all season- The Meeks gave life to this special animal we call Hollywild. The community at large will keep that heart beating through their support, and the staff will continue to see to it that it is well cared for. This is an exciting time for all of us,” said Board President Tim Todd.