Janet Gardner, Founder/Executive Director/Treasurer: Janet has long dreamed of bringing a world-class zoo to Western Colorado. Now as Executive Director/Secretary of Grand Valley Zoological Quest, she is making her dream a reality. Gardner graduated from both Midland College and The University of Texas Permian Basin with honors. Her senior year she was selected by the faculty as the outstanding Graduate in Psychology and was President of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society for psychology students. Gardner held the prestigious position of Graduate Assistant to the psychology professors while taking classes towards a Master’s in Behavioral Science. Gardner holds a BA in psychology, a minor in biology, master’s work in behavioral science, and numerous certifications in psittacine and avian program management including certificates from: AZA Advance Avian Program Management, American Federation of Aviculture, Steve Martin’s Natural Encounters, Dr. Susan Friedman’s LLP just to name a few . She spent nine months in Jakarta, Indonesia, studying the Komodo dragons, in 1990, and was on site during the exchange of two Komodo dragons for two white tigers between the Ragunan Zoo and the Cincinnati, Ohio Zoo. Janet spent a great deal of time with the Curator of Reptiles, Johnny Arnett from the Cincinnati Ohio Zoo, working with the Komodo dragons and helping to sex water monitors. During this time Janet also worked with Sumatran rhinos, as well as in the primate nursery with orangutans and a chimpanzee. Gardner is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the American Federation of Aviculture, the World Parrot Trust, Fruita’s Chamber of Commerce, and Fruita's Chamber of Commerce Business Builders. Since 2000, she has been teaching, free of charge, extracurricular classes in life science to local schools often including live animals in her presentations. Gardner is a volunteer at Grand Junction High School within the following organizations: Science Club, German Club, Booster Club, and was one of Grand Junction High School's Volunteer of the Year 2011-2012. Gardner was the Kid’s Aide/Backpack Program volunteer at West Middle School for three years.
Dianna Fox, MBA, President: Dianna holds Bachelor’s Degrees in both Nursing and Business along with a MBA from Mesa State College recently elevated to Colorado Mesa University. She is a native of Grand Junction. Fox has been a psittacine re-homer for over ten years. She is a civic volunteer with the local soup kitchen for the past three years cooking and serving food every Tuesday night along with her husband Rocky. Fox also volunteers for Community Cat Cares, now in her fourth year, and an active member of the Western Colorado Beekeepers Association.
Tracy Baron, M.A. Director of Education/Secretary:Tracy retired, 2010, from Mesa County Valley School District 51 after 31 years of teaching. Baron holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Wayne State University and a Masters of Arts in Education with an emphasis on Gifted/Talented Education from Western State College. She is Nationally Board Certified, and taught for Mesa State College now Colorado Mesa University as an adjunct professor in Science and Social Studies. Baron has held the distinction of being awarded The National Board Teaching Certification on two occasions, 2000 & 2010, Grand Junction’s Teacher of the Year three times, The Daily Sentinel’s teacher of the Month, Colorado Council’s “Teacher of the Year for Elementary Social Studies”, and named in the “Who’s Who in American Education”, 2005 & 2006, as well as “Who’s Who in American Women”, 2007, in addition she was Grand Junctions Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the year for 1996 &1997. Barron has written numerous integrated curriculum involving rainforest, ocean, Antarctica, and Colorado environments for 4th & 5th graders. Baron’s forte is experiential learning. She has lived on a research station in Belize's tropical rainforest, and has been to the rainforests throughout Australia and Central America. Baron is a world traveler and brings all her life experiences and devotion to Grand Valley Zoological Quest.
Benjamin M. Wegener, Attorney and Partner with Younge & Hockensmith: Ben earned a Juris Doctorate Degree with Distinction at the University Of Nebraska College Of Law. Originating from Nebraska and raised on a farm, Wegener is very familiar with animals and certified zoos spending time at both the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo. His memberships include: Colorado Defense Lawyer’s Association, American Bar Association, Colorado Bar Association, and Mesa County Bar Association. Wegener is a prior Member of the Board of Directors of the Grand Junction area Salvation Army. Currently, he is a member of The Board of Directors for Fruita, Colorado’s City Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Valley Young Professionals. Ben along with his wife Brooke have been devoted volunteers within our community for many years and soon will be taking on a new important role as parents.
Holly Tumas, Husbandry Coordinator, a graduate of the Exotic Animal training & Management Program at Moorepark College in California. She is a dedicated professional in the animal field with 13 years’ experience in Zoo Operations and Wildlife Education. Tumas has expertise in overseeing the daily operations of a zoological facility with up to 30 individuals under her supervision.
In her role as Zoo Operations Assistant, for America’s Teaching Zoo, Tumas was responsible for assisting the Zoo Supervisor in overseeing the daily operation of America's Teaching Zoo, the on-site working lab for students of the Exotic Animal Training & Management Program at Moorpark College. Duties included supervising the weekend zoo hours, overseeing animal shows presented by program students and managing the daily care of the facility's 150 animals. Provided hands-on guidance in working with the zoo's gray wolf, mountain lions, coyote, capuchin monkey and siamangs. Responsible for ordering food and supplies for the zoo, and coordinating grounds improvement projects.
David Fricke- retired Mesa County Valley School District 51 Principal: David was born and raised in the Cincinnati area which provided great opportunities to enjoy one of the most outstanding zoos in the country. Fricke visited often with his family and still remembers the field trips as a student in school researching selected animals along with classmates and sharing their findings with the entire class. Fricke attended the University of Cincinnati prior to joining the Navy. He spent two tours in Viet Nam and one in Europe aboard an aircraft carrier. His naval experience allowed him to circumnavigate the world two times resulting in time spent on every continent. One thing Fricke observed visiting many impoverished countries was that when the quality of life lessens so does the surrounding environment and wildlife. This is why we see rain forest and some animal species disappearing. When Fricke left the military, he completed his education and was recruited from the University of Arizona to teach in Grand Junction. Fricke taught in elementary schools in the Grand Valley for 16 years before furthering his education and serving as principal for the next 17 years. He worked in the most impoverished areas within our community. One of the most striking things He noted was that the children, for the most part, showed similarities to the people he observed in other poverty ridden countries in that they had little exposure to wildlife and consequently in many cases not a lot of respect for animals. Today, retired, Fricke lives on twelve acres raising horses and enjoying life.
Jeff and Cathi Miller: The Millers have resided on the Western Slope for 16 years. Jeff has been a business owner in Grand Junction as well as on the Front Range for over 20 years. His expertise is in marketing, mail, and business management, and holds many degrees and certifications. Cathi is a Registered Nurse certified in Hospice and Palliative Care, and also has a background in Real Estate. She currently works for the Veterans Hospital. Jeff and Cathi both share a love for animals and aquariums. Jeff specializes in aquarium set-up, care and maintenance, with over 1000 gallons of fish tanks in his home. They recently brought a rehomed Catalina McCaw into their home that is now a family member along with numerous other dogs, cats, birds, snake and fish. Jeff and Cathi are devoted in the quest to bring an educational zoo experience to all those with the thirst for knowledge and love of animals.
Lori Buck, City of Fruita Mayor & City of Fruita Liaison to GVZQ’s Board: I am a fourth generation Lower Valley Resident (maiden name Clawson), a graduate of Fruita Monument High School and Colorado State University. I lived on the eastern slope for 11 years getting my education and working in my chosen profession of Forestry. I have been married for 18 years and have two daughters 14 and 7. Our family moved back to Fruita in 2001 because growing up in a small town was a great experience and my husband and I wanted that same opportunity for our children. My interest in local government began while working for the City of Fruita Planning Department, where I learned growth management, policy, and planning. I resigned my position the end of 2004 to raise our children and work part-time for our family business.
I currently serve on the Fruita City Council, the last 4 years as Mayor Pro-tem, the Senior Task Force, the Tourism Board, and the Arts & Culture Board. I participated in the Community Plan update, the Land Use Code update, and two Tabor Review Committees. I was a participant in the development of the Parks and Open Space Plan and the Economic Development Plan.
I am deeply rooted in this community. I will ensure that the city continues to remain fiscally responsible, that the small town character of Fruita is preserved while supporting the local economy and that growth is managed in a manner to protect citizen’s interest.