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Kirby Fowler, formerly of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, will be the new president of the Maryland Zoo.
Kirby Fowler, formerly of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, will be the new president of the Maryland Zoo. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

The Maryland Zoo announced Friday that its new president will be Kirby Fowler of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. Kirby Fowler will be leaving the organization after 15 years.

Fowler, who started at the partnership in 2004, will replace Don Hutchinson, who announced his resignation in June. Fowler will start in April 2020. The Downtown Partnership did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

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Fowler said he is looking forward to helping the zoo continue its habitat and animal welfare advancements.

“Much of the experience I’ve had over the past 15 years is managing an environment in the public realm and attracting people to it,” Fowler said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun. “And I’m looking forward to continuing to do that but in a slightly different way."

Fowler said there were two motivating factors for the change in position: figuring out how he could use his skill set in a different capacity for something new and his daughter, who was a zoo volunteer for several years.

“Fifteen years seemed like a nice round number to evaluate my future,” Fowler said about his interest in the job. “And I saw the passion about the zoo through my daughter’s eyes and heard all the great stories about the employees.”

Though he doesn’t know much about zoology and care of animals, Fowler said he is looking forward to learning from the zoo experts.

Throughout his 15-year tenure at the Downtown Partnership, Fowler advocated for adaptive reuse of more than 70 major properties, spearheaded the revitalization of parks and plaza and launched Baltimore restaurant week, among other things, the news release said.

As president Fowler will lead more than 250 employees and 225 volunteers, overseeing the management and care of over 1,500 animals.

Jennifer Lowry, chair of the Maryland Zoological Society Inc. Board of Trustees, said Fowler was chosen for the position because of his nonprofit leadership experience and passion for the zoo’s mission.

“We have full confidence that he will uphold our position as an outstanding cultural, educational and conservation organization, and provide strong, steady leadership through this exciting and pivotal period for the Zoo,” Lowry said.

Hutchinson, whose last day at the zoo will be June 30, 2020, called Fowler a “terrific” hire. Hutchinson said he’s known him for over 20 years and believes Fowler will be quick to learn the ins and outs of the job.

“He understands Baltimore, the state and the business environment,” Hutchinson said. “He walks in the front door without being surprised about how non for profits either grow and decline.”

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