The man who has been filling in as interim president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden since the June retirement of Palmer “Satch” Krantz III was promoted Tuesday.
Thomas K. Stringfellow becomes the third person to lead the zoo in its more than 40-year-history, the park said in a news release issued Tuesday night. He said he was grateful for the opportunity and praised the zoo staff in his statement Tuesday night.
“The zoo employs a knowledgeable, driven and dedicated staff, each of whom I’m excited to journey with as we build upon Riverbanks’ past successes and continue to grow the zoo as a global leader in conservation, education, science and recreation,” Stringfellow said.
Stringfellow is no stranger to Riverbanks Zoo or South Carolina. After a decade as the park’s marketing director, in 2011 he was promoted to chief operating officer. He earned his bachelor’s of science degree in business management at Winthrop University.
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Before joining Riverbanks, Stringfellow directed sales and marketing efforts at various theme parks, including Paramount’s Six Flags over Georgia, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center and Six Flags Great Escape and Water Park in upstate New York.
Stringfellow replaces Krantz, who joined the zoo in 1973 and became executive director three years later, at age 26, just a few years after graduating from Clemson University. With his help, what started as a grassroots effort to build a small petting zoo in the Midlands is today home to more than 2,000 animals.
Under Krantz, Riverbanks underwent three major expansions and is now one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the country. It is South Carolina’s top tourist attraction. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden had nearly 1.4 million guests during the 2016-17 fiscal year, a record in attendance, the zoo said.
“Tommy brings extensive knowledge and experience to this vital role with more than 25 years combined in the zoo and attractions industries,” said Mary Howard, chair of Riverbanks Park Commission. Howard said Stringfellow’s proven track record “will ensure Riverbank’s continued growth, financial success and leadership in conservation.”