Tuesday, February 3, 2009

McKamey Animal Center Director Resigns

Dr. Amanda Wojtalik-Courter

Hard Hit By Economic Downturn, Board Works To Revamp Budget

Seven months after the McKamey Animal Center opened its doors and began operations, the shelter’s executive director has resigned.

In a letter dated Sunday, Dr. Amanda Wojtalik-Courter said, “it is time for me to return to private practice and directly providing animal care on a daily basis.”

Her last day on the job, she told McKamey Board Chairman Dan Alderman in the letter, will be April 30.

However, Mr. Alderman indicated the outgoing director has agreed verbally to help out after that date if a new executive director cannot be found that soon.

“Dr. Amanda has been an extraordinary executive director and she leaves with the sincere thanks of the Animal Care Trust board of directors,” he said.

The director’s resignation comes as members of the Animal Care Trust – which operates McKamey – rework their 2008-2009 budget, seeking ways to reduce expenses while dealing with huge numbers of abandoned, unwanted and stray animals from throughout the city.

McKamey treasurer Jack Kreusi has been spearheading the budget review, Mr. Alderman said, and the board’s executive committee will meet Wednesday to review the latest figures.

Mayor Ron Littlefield, asked about McKamey’s troubles, said the city remains committed to the animal shelter and will not let it go under financially. “If they need more money, we’ll find a way to get them more money,” he said last week.

McKamey, which was formerly open 12 hours a day in an attempt to maximize adoptions, has cut back on hours, Mr. Alderman noted. It is now open for adoptions and admissions from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Pet owners who want to relinquish their animals are required to call the center and make an appointment to do so, rather than just showing up with the dog(s) and/or cat(s).

The board has also discussed reducing, from two to one, the number of field officers on trucks that pick up animals, Mr. Alderman noted. Since he is not involved in day-to-day operations, he said, he does not know whether that change already has been made.

The letter of resignation says:

February 1, 2009

To the members of the board of the Animal Care Trust:

There comes a time in each person’s life when she must examine the commitments she has made – to herself, her family and her community. My commitment to the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center has been one born of passion, hope and unflagging optimism.

I joined the Animal Care Trust as a non-voting (Hamilton County Veterinary Medical Care Association) board representative five years ago and was impressed by the mission statement:

The mission of the Animal Care Trust/McKamey Animal Center is to protect animals from neglect, abuse and exploitation; to advocate for their interests and welfare; to reduce the unwanted pet population through an effective spay/neuter program; and to inspire and educate the citizens of the City of Chattanooga toward an awareness and compassion for all living things.

When I was asked to serve as the Executive Director, I was honored and buoyed by the task. To have an opportunity to not only be a part of, but spearhead the creation of an animal center that would provide not just a new resource and shelter to the community, but also a center of activism, advocacy and information in my field of interest – animal care and welfare – was a dream come true.

Designing, building and envisioning the function and flow of the McKamey Center was a consuming passion. As many of you know, I could walk the rooms even before the floors were poured.

Creating the policies and finding the team members to realize the vision and mission of the Trust/Center was an exciting process. To have the opportunity to work with and draw from some of the most innovative programs in the country and to realize the potential for Chattanooga was exciting beyond words. The individuals on our staff have proven their love of, and commitment to, the center, the animals, and the citizens of Chattanooga time and time again.

Leading the design and build out of the center and watching it grow and develop has been the greatest gift of all. To be able to be a part of this startup process has been challenging, informative and inspiring. The animals that have been saved, the individuals who have been helped, and the people who have donated their time, money and love have made every hour spent at the center a joy.

While I have made innumerable friends (animal and human), learned invaluable lessons, and been changed by every life I have encountered, it is time for me to return to private practice and directly providing veterinary care on a daily basis.

The center will continue to thrive and grow under its mission of protection, advocacy, prevention and hope, and I will continue to support it in any way I can be of help.

Please accept this letter of resignation as recognition of the center’s success. It is ready and able to stand on its own, with your and the community’s support.

My last day will be April 30, 2009, and I am available to help in the transition to a new executive director during this period. This fulfills my contractual obligation of 90 days notice and makes me available to help the center during this time of change.

Thank you for the opportunity this experience has afforded me and for allowing me to realize my dream in the creation of the center.

Sincerely, Dr. Amanda Wojtalik/Courter, Executive Director

This is the bio on Dr. Amanda from the McKamey website:

Our Executive Director, Dr. Amanda Wojtalik-Courter, is a Chattanooga native who set her sights on helping animals when she was very young.

Dr. Amanda graduated with honors from Hixson High School. She received her B.S. in Zoology, summa cum laude with Highest Honors, from the University of Georgia in 1995. At Georgia she was awarded the University of Georgia Foundation Fellowship; a four-year, full fellowship top award for entering freshman; and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society.

She did her post-graduate work at Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where she earned a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology in 1997. She was recognized with a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship; Harry S. Truman Graduate Fellowship for Public Service; and Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship.

Dr. Amanda graduated from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2001.

After earning her DVM, Dr. Amanda returned to her hometown and has practiced veterinary medicine in Chattanooga ever since.

After a national search, the Animal Care Trust Board of Directors unanimously chose Dr. Amanda as the Executive Director of the planned animal care center that would care for Chattanooga’s unwanted and homeless animals. Dr. Amanda worked with a nationally recognized firm to design the facility, and was there every step of the way during construction.

Today, due in large part to the efforts of Dr. Amanda, the McKamey Animal Center is a crown jewel for Chattanooga, a place of education, advocacy and compassion.

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