The Times-Picayune reports that Dale Stastny, longtime COO of the Audubon Nature Institute, has announced his retirement at the end of 2011. But their description of Stastny as "Ron Forman's right-hand man" actually understates his role: when it came to the day-to-day running of the ANI over the past ten years, behind the scenes he has often seemed to do the work of BOTH of Ron's hands. In addition, even during contentious controversies over whatever project or development the ANI was plotting, Dale Stastny could usually be counted on to be unfailingly respectful and courteous to members of the public, even when they were the vocal opposition. We often wondered over the years how he put up with doing so much of the real work for less than half of Ron Forman's whopping compensation...
Ironically, when asked which ANI project has been "most satisfying", he apparently cited the redeveloped Audubon golf course, a project that has LOST an average of $450,000 a year since the start!
From the Times-Picayune, March 22, 2011.
LEAVING THE ZOO: For three decades, Dale Stastny has been Ron Forman's right-hand man at the Audubon Zoo and all the other Audubon properties and projects.
While Forman dreamed up new ventures and raised the money for them, Stastny has made sure that the gates opened on time, the elephants got fed and -- above all -- that the books balanced at the end of the year.
By shouldering so much of the administrative load, he gave Forman the freedom to do things like run for mayor and serve as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and the Superdome Commission.
But Stastny will turn 66 this year, and he has decided to retire. To prepare for the transition, he has given up his titles of executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Audubon Nature Institute and will be officially listed as a special adviser to the chief executive officer, namely Forman, until his retirement date of Dec. 31.
Another Audubon executive, Bill Kurtz, has been promoted to the new post of senior executive vice president and chief of staff, which combines his former job of chief revenue officer with Stastny's duties as chief operating officer.
Audubon's administrative structure, never short of impressive titles, contains three other executive vice presidents.
Stastny arrived at Audubon 34 years ago as finance director. Since then, he has helped guide the zoo's transformation from civic embarrassment to showplace and the creation of new projects such as the Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Insectarium.
Asked which project has been most satisfying, however, he cited the reconstruction almost a decade ago of the Audubon golf course, partly because he plays golf and partly because of the "neighborhood interaction."
His tongue had to be at least partly in his cheek as he said that, though. All of Audubon's projects, starting with renovation of the zoo, have aroused controversy, and none more than rebuilding the golf course. Although many golfers and some neighbors supported the plan, it inspired the formation of a group called Save Audubon Park, which for a time ran an active Internet-based campaign against all of Audubon's plans.
And what about Forman, who is just a couple of years younger than Stastny? Has he given any hints he is thinking about retiring soon?
Stastny scoffed at the idea. "Maybe sometime in this decade," he said.