A former Minnesota Zoo zookeeper is now its director


More than a quarter century ago, John Frawley took a job as a zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo.

Now, he's leading the whole thing.

The Minnesota native has been officially named the new director and president of the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, according to a news release.

He was selected as the final candidate for the role unanimously by the zoo's search committee, and his appointment was signed off by the board of directors on Wednesday.

"It’s been 26 years since I was a zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo," Frawley said in the release. "But I’m coming home to more than just the Zoo; I’m coming home to Minnesota where I grew up exploring the state’s great outdoors."

Frawley went to Red Wing High School and Minnesota State University. He held a zookeeper gig with the Minnesota Zoo from 1988-1992, after which he went to the Mall of America to help plan and develop what was then Camp Snoopy and Underwater World.

In 1996 he moved to San Francisco (where he's been since) to take a job with Aquarium of the Bay. It eventually turned into a leadership role with Bay.org, a conservation and restoration group that brought together multiple agencies in the area.

Peter Maritz, chair of the Minnesota Zoo Board of Director, said they went through 200 potential candidates, noting Frawley brings a "compelling background and skill set."

First actions include legislative pitch

According to the release, Frawley will be "actively engaged" in the zoo's legislative activities, which includes working to secure funding help.

Gov. Mark Dayton's most recent bonding bill proposal (which is basically him laying out what he would like to do with the money) includes $21.8 million for the zoo, some of which would go to "asset preservation."

That comes after a difficult financial period.

In late 2014, the zoo said layoffs would be coming amid slumping attendance. A few months later, it asked for $1.5 million in emergency funding to help keep things going.

In June, the previous director and president, Lee Ehmke, left to join the Houston Zoo.

For the 2015 fiscal year, the zoo says about 30 percent of its revenue came from state appropriations or the state's Legacy Fund.

Next Up

Governor Tim Walz

Walz will announce timeline 'to end all COVID-19 restrictions'

The details will be revealed in the governor's planned Thursday address.

Associate wearing PPE 2

Amazon to open new facility in St. Cloud this year, creating 'hundreds' of jobs

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis shared the news in his State of the City address this week.

State Patrol

State Patrol: Semi driver kills self after being stopped by troopers

The incident happened Wednesday morning in the Miracle Mile shopping center parking lot in Rochester.

state fair beer

Money Gal: Don't forget the most important items in your budget

Kelly started Money Gal Coaching after paying down more than $46,000 in debt in just 20 months.


Crash kills motorcyclist near Treasure Island casino

The crash took place just before midnight.

The Lunds & Byerlys on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis, three weeks prior to opening.

New Lunds & Byerlys opens in Minneapolis this month

It's been built in the spot formerly occupied by Bergan's SuperValu.

valleyfair food workers 1

Valleyfair food workers getting a pay raise for 2021 season

The starting wage will increase from $11.25 an hour to $15 an hour.

Screen Shot 2021-05-05 at 11.10.59 AM

Peloton recalls treadmills after child's death, dozens of other injuries

Officials say owners should stop using them immediately.

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 6.42.54 AM

St. Paul man gets prison, ordered to pay $12M for burning of 3rd Police Precinct

He was among four Minnesota men charged in connection to the fires at the Third Precinct following George Floyd's murder.


Some MN high schools are refusing to pay MSHSL's pandemic fee

The installment fees were approved as a "short-term" budget fix.

Grand Portage State Park

Senate GOP threatens State Parks, DNR shutdown if 'Clean Cars' rule isn't scrapped

Republicans are willing to hold up the omnibus environment bill to stop the MPCA from enacting Clean Cars rules.


Minn. Zoo director explains decision behind closure of dolphin exhibit

Questions and reactions following the announcement earlier this week about closure of Minnesota Zoo dolphin exhibit prompts director Lee Ehmke to release a statement clarifying the zoo's decision. Ehmke notes that the welfare of current dolphins is among the main reasons for the pending closure -- a move unpopular with a Facebook group who started a petition to keep the exhibit running.

Minnesota Zoo opens exhibit for iconic black bears

Decades after the question was first raised about whether to display one of the enduring symbols of the Minnesota woods, three black bears have arrived at the Minnesota Zoo in a new exhibit that opens Saturday.