By David Shivers
With some 90 days on the job under his belt, the new CEO of Flint RiverQuarium continues making the rounds, getting acquainted with his new community.
North Georgia native Sanders Lewallen appeared before the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on October 10, praising the facility where he has taken the reigns.
“It’s one of a kind, essentially,” he said, and a focal point for education about the Flint River system, “a living laboratory” with its various exhibits and programs, which he said he wants to keep “at the highest possible level.”
Lewallen described the staff at the RiverQuarium as “very strong professional people who do their job.” He added, “I want to be part of what this team can do to create a real sustainability of the Flint River.”
The Flint RiverQuarium has been the source of periodic controversy over funding it receives from the city of Albany and Dougherty County. In addition to public funding, it also gets revenue from memberships, individual gifts, and sponsorships.
Noting that the RiverQuarium is “a public-private partnership,” Lewallen emphasized that “I don’t expect the public to maintain this operation.” He said that over the last few years it has become clear that “fundraising is not episodic any more. We need to be doing it all the time.”
Lewallen wants “to see what collaborations we can achieve here in town. We have an opportunity to do the best possible work out there.”
Lewallen quoted Coca-Cola scion Robert Woodruff: “There is no limit to what a man can achieve, as long as he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”
In keeping with its educational mission, Flint RiverQuarium has hosted students from 57 Georgia counties as far north as Bartow County, in addition to field-trippers from Alabama and Florida.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Lewallen has more than 30 years’ experience with zoos and conservation and environmental education centers such as Zoo Atlanta, the Smithsonian National Zoo, Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, and, prior to coming to Albany, the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Fort Myers, Fla.