Photo: Anthony Rao
Director, Office of Animal Services, Lake County
- Born and raised in Eustis; graduated from Leesburg High School.
- Former teacher, now director of Office of Animal Services for Lake County.
- Single and one of five siblings.
- Furbabies: one cat and five dogs.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? I wanted to be a funeral director.
What motivated you to take this job? Following Hurricane Katrina, I was watching Anderson Cooper on CNN, and I saw a dog up in a tree. I volunteered to go with the Humane Society of the United States to rescue animals. I became involved with the Lake County Animal Shelter because I saw a spark of hope for improvement and change. I founded LEASH Inc. (Love. Enrichment. Adoption. Shelter. Health), and when they made the commitment to be a no-kill shelter, it was a good time for me to switch jobs. I feel this is my community and our shelter.
What happened after Hurricane Irma? With any severe weather event, you have stray animals. We were at critical capacity with more than 200 animals. We made an appeal and the community showed up and adopted or fostered to get homes for the needy pets.
What do you love most about your job? The matchmaking. I love finding the perfect pet for a family and watching them begin their new life together.
Your hero? Dr. Julie Levy, from the University of Florida, who is a leading national expert on cats and animal shelters. She has done a lot of amazing work.
Three words that describe you: Determined, passionate, innovative.
What do you hope other people learn from you? That when a community comes together for a common goal, it’s absolutely achievable.
Guilty pleasure? Potato olés from Taco John’s. The closest one is in Elizabethton, Tennessee, but I drove up there to get some.
If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Jane Goodall, if she brought a chimpanzee.
Something about me no one knows: I dropped out of mortuary school.
Pet peeve: People who expect or demand change but are unwilling to be a part of the solution.
Favorite hobby or outside interest: Knitting, paddle boarding, camping, shooting at the gun range, photography.
Secret to your success: Creativity and a positive attitude.