Mayor Introduces ABQ BioPark Chief Executive
06/28/2016 - Today Mayor Richard J. Berry announced the hiring of a Chief Executive to administer the overall operation of the ABQ BioPark and direct the implementation of millions of dollars in upcoming capital projects at New Mexico's most visited cultural institution.
After a months-long international search, James T. (JT) Allen was selected for the newly created ABQ BioPark Chief Executive position from a pool of twenty-one candidates.
Allen is a proven executive with more than 29 years of success in public works in the federal and local government sectors in facility operations, maintenance, design, construction and program management. He most recently was the Senior Director for Facility Modernization/Bond Program Division for Denver Public Schools, and previously was a Regional Construction Director for the Los Angeles, CA Unified School District. Allen is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Civil Engineer Officer.
"JT Allen has an incredible civil engineering background to go along with 'big project' management and construction oversight experience," said Mayor Berry. "I am quite excited to have a person of his caliber join our team and take on such an important role in guiding the future of the BioPark."
Allen is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). His military career includes: Chief of the Readiness and Expeditionary Combat Support Division at the Air Force Space Command headquarters at Peterson AFB, Colorado; Commander of the 18th Civil Engineering Squadron (Director of Public Works) at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan; Chief of Strategy & Programming Branch at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Allen has a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University, a BS in Civil Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy.
"I'm energized to take an already great institution and develop it into an even greater institution that will be cherished for decades to come," said Allen. "My experience in civil engineering, facility operation, construction and program management will support implementation of the BioPark master plan. Our community has said it wants this to happen. It's a challenge that I'm up to, and I'm ready to get started."
The BioPark Chief Executive is a new position created as a result of the 1/8 of one percent Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) referendum passed by Albuquerque voters in 2015. The tax is expected to generate about $255 million during the next 15 years to fund the capital needs, including design, construction, acquisition, improvement, renovation, rehabilitation and equipping or furnishing of the ABQ BioPark, in accordance with the ABQ BioPark master plan. The increase in GRT will be in effect from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2031.
The New Mexico BioPark Society, which led the effort to have the referendum on the 2015 ballot, agrees with Mayor Berry's administration that the master plan implementation requires a project management team, including the Chief Executive and up to three other positions. The Chief Executive will lead the Project Management Team consisting of Cultural Services Department administrators and staff, ABQ BioPark management and staff, Department of Municipal Development administrators and staff, and New Mexico BioPark Society administrators in oversight of the master plan projects
Allen's salary will be paid jointly from the GRT and by the BioPark Society; he will be a full time City employee. The BioPark Society will fund $60,000 annually, with the GRT funding $98,000 annually. The Chief Executive will report to Dana Feldman, director of the Cultural Services Department.
The ABQ BioPark master plan, the result of a two-year effort, was compiled through staff and public surveys, many staff meetings, and information sessions and open houses for the public. The completed plan focuses on the BioPark's sustainability for the next two decades and beyond.
Owned and operated by the City of Albuquerque, the ABQ BioPark is approximately 150 acres in size and is composed of the Aquarium and Botanic Gardens (54 acres), Tingley Beach (33 acres), and the Zoo (64 acres). With more than 1.2 million visitors annually, the ABQ BioPark remains the top tourist destination in New Mexico.
The City's Cultural Services Department oversees the operations of the ABQ BioPark. CSD has an annual budget of $33.5 million and with a projected $17 million in annual Capital Projects budget. The BioPark currently employs 128 full-time, 20 part-time seasonal, and 78 temporary contract workers to operate and maintain the BioPark.
The New Mexico BioPark Society supports the City in its operation of the ABQ BioPark. The Society is "dedicated to the development of, procurement for, and capital improvement of the BioPark and to providing a quality facility through the support of related conservation, education, and recreation programs." Together, the City and Society have partnered to develop a number of exhibits and programs that continue to build the BioPark's reputation.