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Great Plains Zoo Announces Interim CEO

Suzie Omeara Hernes

Suzie O'Meara Hernes

The Board of Directors of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is pleased to announce the appointment of Suzie O’Meara Hernes as Interim CEO. Suzie will lead the organization while a nationwide search is conducted to fill the permanent President and CEO position. She brings to this role extensive for-profit and non-profit experience successfully leading and managing teams and organizations. She has deep roots within the Sioux Falls community and is well respected throughout the region for fostering organizational growth.

Suzie has spent the last five years in leadership roles at the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, most recently as President of the Good Samaritan Foundation. Prior to moving into the non-profit world, she had an extensive career with business and technology companies, including as a Vice President with SONIFI/LodgeNet Interactive. She has an MBA with an emphasis in project management and a MSM in organizational leadership. She is also proud to call herself an Augustana University alum with her undergraduate degrees in business administration and information systems.

“We’re excited Suzie is able to step into this interim role and guide the organization through the transition at this critical time. Her experience in nurturing a mission driven and values-based team culture will serve the Zoo well over the coming months. She has the right combination of understanding both the business and non-profit worlds to ensure the Zoo is well positioned for the Zoo’s permanent CEO,” said Jeff Hugunin, Board Chair.

While the Zoo is closed to guests at this time, the animal care and operations team continue to provide exceptional care to all of the Zoo’s animals. Suzie, along with the Zoo team, will ensure those levels of care will continue and the Zoo will be ready to open once it is safe to do so.

Suzie will remain in the interim role until a permanent CEO is selected and in place. The search process, being led by Zoo Advisors, a national firm with extensive experience working with zoos across the country, is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020. However, the timing of when a new CEO would start will be dependent on the current pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of our natural world through education, conservation, recreation and discovery. The Great Plains Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – a leader in wildlife conservation. Fewer than 10% of animal institutions in the United States have met the high standards for AZA accreditation.


  • Love this zoo! Great place to get a walk in and the animals are everywhere! The museum/indoor part is very educational too. Has a lot of shade for when it's hot out. Very clean. Friendly staff.

    Taylor F.
  • We love to visit the zoo. They have great outdoor exhibits and lots to do inside as well. Great for kids and adults.

    Robin A.
  • Lots of great exhibits and animals to see! Fun gift shop and learning center.

    Stephanie N.
  • The museum gives you a break from the sun on hot summer days and has a great selection of animal exhibits from around the world. ¬†The zoo keeps growing and adding new animal habitats or improving existing ones. ¬†Membership offers reciprocal benefits to other zoos around the country.

    Bill T.