July 31, 2002 - Billings Gazette: Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan leads ZooMontana

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By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 4:06 pm: Edit Post

Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan leads ZooMontana

Read and comment on this piece from the Billings Gazette on Nicaragua RPCV Todd Buchanan shown in the photo above who has just been chosen to lead ZooMontana at:

ZooMontana gets new leader*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

ZooMontana gets new leader

Of The Gazette Staff
Todd Buchanan has moved from playing with the bulls and the bears in Bozeman to working with the tigers in Billings.

The 27-year-old Billings native took over Monday as the new executive director of ZooMontana. He was working as a broker for Edward Jones in Bozeman, but wanted to move to Billings to be closer to his family.

Like the volatile stock market, Buchanan is taking on a financial challenge in turning around the zoo's annual deficit, which is running at $400,000 over the past few years.

"There's an unbelievably committed staff to a cause that is benefiting children, businesses and the community as a whole. That's the value culture adds to a community," Buchanan said.

"So I'm excited about this opportunity. The reason I feel confident enough to do this is that I feel I can effectively spread the word."

His father, D.A. Davidson & Co. executive Gary Buchanan, stayed out of his son's job search, then resigned from the eight-member ZooMontana board when Todd was hired.

His mother, Norma Buchanan, has been a longtime zoo volunteer, and Norma's mother, Margarett Rathvon, has volunteered for 15 years. Todd grew up attending and volunteering for zoo events.

ZooMontana, he said, is a family deal.

Buchanan, who went to grade school at Blue Creek Elementary School, was an all-state quarterback for Billings Senior High and graduated from Montana State University with a degree in business marketing. He spent two years in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps as a business-development volunteer where he tried to find funding for various grassroots projects.

At ZooMontana, his fund-raising efforts will be more corporate.

Since voters turned down the cultural mill levy on June 4, funding for the zoo and eight other arts and cultural organizations remains largely up to contributors and patrons.

The levy would have given about one-fourth of the $670,000 raised to ZooMontana or about $167,500 per year. The levy would have cost $8 a year on a $100,000 home.

Rather than a failure, the close defeat of the mill levy is a good beginning, Buchanan said.

"I think it's premature for cultural entities to ask the public for support," he said. "The cultural entities are in a growth mode, and, in order to secure public tax dollar support, we have to earn it."

To earn that respect, Buchanan pointed to the fact the zoo has grown from a single monkey in an office on the first floor of the Northern Hotel two decades ago to a first-class facility with 10 major exhibits.

The zoo had no written deficiencies from the American Zoo Association for its first few years of operation, a rare feat, Buchanan said. The not-for-profit zoo employs 26 full-and part-time employees and has 20 regular volunteers.

"Here's a tremendous facility. It has everything that a community wants or needs, but Billings has yet to recognize that there is a responsibility," Buchanan said, adding that it's his job to educate people and to raise funds.

Ninety percent of the zoos around the country are tax-supported, and Billings' zoo must continue to seek public support, Buchanan said.

ZooMontana cannot keep going back to private donors and benefactors to make up the yearly deficit, he said. The tiger exhibit alone eats up more than $120,000 a year in operational expenses.

"Bottom line, we need to raise money, and that starts with earning the trust of current donors, recapturing past patrons and educating and spreading the word with the new," Buchanan said.

"I'm so excited about being a part of Billings and the zoo, and we just need to bring the two together."

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