LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that a nationwide search has begun for the next Director of the L.A. Zoo — to replace John Lewis, who will retire in January after 15 years of extraordinary service.
“John is an outstanding public servant who leads with a remarkable commitment to the animals in his care, and a deep respect for everyone who is devoted to safeguarding their well-being,” said Mayor Garcetti. “He is leaving very big shoes to fill — but I am confident that we will find a successor who can build on his accomplishments and drive forward our mission to raise the bar for animal welfare and visitor experiences in the 21st century.”
During his tenure, Lewis successfully oversaw the implementation of $180 million in bond projects — including the addition of the Rainforest of the Americas exhibit and the Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles (LAIR) exhibit.
Under Lewis’ leadership, the Zoo launched multiple conservation efforts, including the California Condor Rescue Zone, which helped bring the endangered birds back from the brink of extinction. Lewis also introduced innovative and popular programs — like Zoo Lights, a dazzling holiday display; and Brew at the Zoo, which brings local craft and microbreweries to the Zoo for a night of music, talks by animal keepers, and up-close animal encounters.
Lewis will leave his post on Jan. 4. Assistant Director Denise Verret — who has served in the position for the past 18 years and is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — will serve as interim Director until the post is permanently filled following a nationwide search for candidates.