SPRINGFIELD, MO — The Springfield-Greene County Park Board has named Jackson Thompson as Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation — Dickerson Park Zoo, effective Sunday, May 19. The position is informally known as Zoo Director.

Thompson, 39, has spent 20 years — his entire professional career — at Dickerson Park Zoo, starting in Guest Services staff in 2004. He has served in the zoo’s Commissary/Missouri Habitat, as Tropical Asia Zookeeper, Head Zookeeper, Elephant Manager, Education Ambassador Collection Manager, and Superintendent of the Zoo. Most recently, Thompson has served as Interim Zoo Director, following the March 29 retirement of longtime Zoo Director Mike Crocker, who had trained Thompson to succeed him. 

Jim Fisher, Interim Director of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, said Thompson’s leadership and experience helped him earn the position.

“Jackson’s passion for wildlife conservation and education, coupled with his commitment to Dickerson Park Zoo and its staff, will serve the community well in his new role,” said Fisher.

While Dickerson Park Zoo is a division of the Parks department, zoo operations, programming, funding, member and donor development and even some staff positions are coordinated with the nonprofit Friends of the Zoo (FOZ), which exists to support the zoo. 

“The Friends of the Zoo staff and board and I are thrilled to have Jackson officially take on the role of Zoo Director/Assistant Director of Parks,” said Allyson Tuckness, Executive Director of FOZ. “He is an integral part of the relationship between FOZ and the Parks department. His passion for Dickerson Park Zoo, specifically, is shown through his years of work in all areas of the park. I personally look forward to continuing to work alongside him as we make the zoo even better!”

Thompson began working for Friends of the Zoo while in college, before earning a BS in Biology, with a Chemistry minor, from Evangel University in 2006. After graduation, he became a fulltime Zoo employee. 

Thompson is active in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), through which Dickerson Park Zoo has held accreditation since 1988. He is a member of the Zoo Conservation Outreach Group board and a past member of the national and local chapters of the American Association of Zookeepers. Career highlights include furthering the zoo’s focus on animal training, enrichment and welfare, taking part in a two-year elephant welfare study with AZA, helping to start Keeper Chats and Elephant Baths education, reestablishing the ZooCrew teen intern program, and chairing the Diversity Equity Accessible and Inclusion committee at the Zoo.

“It really is an honor to be named the next Zoo Director,” said Thompson. “The future is bright at the zoo, with the traditions that Mike Crocker left in his 48-year tenure, and with our Park Board and Friends of the Zoo leadership we have set in place. Most importantly, the staff at the zoo has been family to me for the last 20 years, and I’m excited to continue my career with them here at Dickerson Park Zoo.”

Thompson said the zoo is also at the center of his family. 

“My wife, Tallie, and I first met at Dickerson Park Zoo,” he said. “We share the same interest in wildlife and wild places, and she is my biggest supporter. And we have three children who would like to spend every day either at the zoo or in the wilderness.”

For more information, contact Joey Powell, PR/Marketing Director for Friends of the Zoo, at 417-833-1570, or Jenny Fillmer Edwards, Public Information Administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, at 417-224-5510.